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In the town of 

North Providence, Rhode Island 
Its Past and Present 

1636- 1909 



" He that wishes to be counted amotig the benefactors of posterity 
must add by his own (qH to the acquisitions of his ancestors.^'' — Rambler, 

r t> 


Copyright, 1909, 
By Frank C. Angell. 


Two CoDies Received 

n^ 17, 1 '1^9 

mpi L 






Truth needs not many words, but a false tale a large preamble. 

In presenting this volume to the public I do so with the 
full appreciation that it \\\\\ be, to a large extent, of local 


In answer to the question why I undertook the task of 
writing the history of the little New England village, I 
would say that I w^as prompted to do so from a feeling of 
regard and admiration for the old-time residents of the 
village, when each and every one had the welfare of his 
neighbor at heart— smiling upon his successes and sym- 
pathizing with him in his adversities. 

Again I would answer, that most people have within 
their hearts an indescribable feeling of love or regard for 
the place of their birth or the home of their adoption,— " be 
it ever so humble,"— the place where they have beheld the 
rising and the setting of the sun for more than half a 
century, and have watched with pride the planting and 
growth of the various industries and institutions around 
their homes. 

In undertaking the task I did so fully realizing that the 
task of the historian is a difficult one, even when it is, as 
in the present instance, the recording of events relatively 
small and unimportant in themselves to the general 
public, but interesting subjects of thought and conver- 


sation to those who have known the viUage in late times, 
and whose hves are or have Ijeen connected with the 
history of Centerdale Ijy l^irth or residence or by family 
ties more or less distant. 

I believe I am right when I say that I am not alone in 
liking to hear the story of the first settlement and growth 
of Centerdale, to know who wxtc the first to make their 
homes here, who built the first house, and, as time went 
on, to know when and how came to be established the 
first industry, the first schoolhouse, church, hotel, and 
other public and private houses and buildings w^hich go 
to make up a typical New England village. 

Neither is it too much to hope that those who come 
after us may wish to glance back along the lines of the 
early days of Centerdale, and learn something of its early 

In my endeavor to carry out the })lan of presenting as 
faithful and true an account as possible, it has been neces- 
sary to depend entirely upon original research. In doing 
so I have made use of not only all the public and private 
records, old deeds, diaries, and account books obtainable 
by me, but also of family and village tradition in so far 
as the latter might be made to square with indubitable 
historical facts. And from these sources, with much 
hard work of searching records and the even harder task 
of unaccustomed authorship to contend with, I present 
this volume to the public, asking indulgence for its 
imperfections. F. c. A. 


Chapter I. 


Introduction i 

Chapter II. 
Original and Subsequent Land Owners 1636-1909 ... 4 

Chapter III. 
The Colonial Saw-Mill 19 

Chapter IV. 
The First House — The Epenetus Olney Homestead ... 23 

Chapter V. 
The Revolutionary Powder-Mill 30 

Chapter VI. 

Highways (with map) — The Old Colonial Road — The Powder- 
Mill Turnpike (now Smith Street) — The Farnum Turnpike 
(now Waterman Avenue) — Mineral Spring Turnpike (now 
Mineral Spring Avenue) — The Woonasquatucket River 
Road (now Woonasquatucket Avenue) 39 

Chapter \TI. 

Transportation — Teaming with Horses and Oxen — Stage- 

„Coach Davs — Steam Railroad — Electric Cars .... 49 


Chapter VIII. 
The SpinninK^ Mill— The Cotton Mill— The Worsted Mill . 58 

Chapter IX. 
Schtjols 66 

Chapter X. 

Churches — The Baptist Meeting; House — St. Alban's Church 
(Episcoi)al) — The Centerdale Methodist Church — St. 
Lawrence Church (Roman Catholic) 77 

Chapter XL 
The Village Tavern 97 

Chapter XII. 
The Country Cobbler — The Harness Maker 116 

Chapter XIII. 

The X'illage Blacksmith Shoj) — The Wheelwright Shop — The 

First Livery Stable 121 

Chapter XIV. 
The \'illage Butcher 132 

Chapter XV. 
The First Store— The Posl-Office 138 

Chapter XVI. 
The War Record 147 


Chapter XVII. 
Union Library i^g 

Chaptkr XVIII. 

Fraternal Orders and Musical Organizations — The Roger 
Williams Lodge, No. 32, A. F. & A. M. — Woonasquatucket 
Lodge, No. 53, I. O. of G. T. — Enterprise Temple of 
Honor, No. 26 — The Centerdale Cornet Band — The Young 
American Fife and Drum Band 169 

Chapter XIX. 

Various Industries — The Pharmacy — The Spectacle Maker — 

The Plane Manufacturer — The Undertaker .... 177 

Chapter XX. 
The Town Hall, or the Seat of the Town Government . . . 183 

Chapter XXI. 
Biographical Sketches 187 

Chapter XXII. 
Lydia Wilcox 192 


BEFORE we tell the early history of the village of 
Centerdale, let us for a moment turn our thoughts 
back to a time long before the country was known to the 
white man ; to a time when only the native Indian roamed 
the primeval forests, whose solitude was broken only by 
the rustling of the leaves of the forest trees, the howling 
of the wild beasts, or the fierce war-cry of the red man. 

Let us picture in our minds the country as formed and 
fashioned by nature's hand ; behold it, in all its picturesque 
beauty, before the pioneer's axe had hewn the stately 
trees that grew upon the hillside; see it before the plow- 
share had torn from the fields their soft green mantle. 

Let us in our reverie stand for a moment upon the moss- 
covered banks of the beautiful Woonasquatucket, whose 
waters flowed with peaceful current beside the hill and 
through the vale, and trace its winding course along the 
path nature seemed to have carved for it; around the foot 
of the verdant hills, and down through the valley and the 
green meadows. 

Let us pause for a moment and listen to the rippling 
of the little brooklets as they come prancing down the 
hillside, looking, in the glow of the setting sun, like silver 
ribbons dropped from the sky, hurrying along to join 
their larger companion, who was silently moving on to 
mingle with the headwaters of Narragansett bay; while 
here and there along the banks of the stream we see the 


wigwam of the Indian, while not far away w^e discern the 
dusky form of the red man, w^hose watchful eye and 
attentive ear are ever alert to the dangers that constantly 
beset his home, and unconscious of the fact that soon the 
intruding pioneer will cause him to retire farther and 
farther into the wilderness, and that their cherished hunt- 
ing grounds ere long will be transformed into busy com- 
munities; the intense silence which had reigned for cen- 
turies will soon be broken by the clanking of the loom or 
the rumble and roar of the swiftly moving train. 

But how soon was this change to come about? k'$> the 
sturdy pioneers pushed their way back into the country, 
the surrounding scene seemed to change like the shifting 
scenes of a play-house. 

The native Indian, unused to the white man's ways, 
withdrew to more quiet sections of the country; the 
beautiful Woonasc|uatucket, wdiose waters for centuries 
had flowed untrammeled to the sea, was soon curbed in 
its course and made to lend its strength to turn the heavy 
millstone, and to force the saw through the oaken log to 
provide material for the settler's home. 

The forests ere long were changed into fertile fields; 
roads constructed where only the narrow^ Indian trails 
were found; and the settler's cottage had taken the place 
of the wigwam of the Indian. 

But let us see if we can tell the interesting story of 
WHO were the flrst settlers of this vicinity, whose axe 
felled the first tree, whose plowshare turned the first sod, 
iL'ho built the first house, whose hand first harnessed the 
waters of the Woonascjuatucket, who and when was 
started the first business enterprise, who first labored in 
Christ's vineyard, and caused to be erected the first 


To be able to answer all or any of the questions would 
be both pleasing and interesting. 

But time in her rapid flight has drawn the curtain 
behind several generations, and among those who have 
passed away were many who helped to make the history 
we are about to tell, leaving behind them bright illus- 
trations of a Christian life, and examples of their energy, 
thrift, and patriotism. 

After the lapse of more than two hundred and sixty 
years one is obliged to rely more or less upon tradition 
and reminiscences for information pertaining to many 
unrecorded events and personages of those early days; 
Ijut these should be accepted only when they are in 
harmony with recorded facts. 

Traditions and family legends are often, however, of 
historical value; even though they may not be strictly 
correct in all of their details, they furnish the key to 
unlock the door to the information we are seeking, and 
with their aid the old colonial records can be read with a 
clearer understanding; for many of the records of the 
early days of the colony arc very obscure and indefinite, 
though undoubtedly clearly understood at the time. Espe- 
cially is this the case with the land transfers, and in such 
cases family tradition and reminiscences lend valuable 
help to a clear understanding of that which is obscure 
in the colonial records. 


The Original and Subsequent Land Owners of 
Centerdale, 1 636-1 909. 

AFTER Roger Williams and his little band of fol- 
lowers, consisting of Thomas Angell, Joshua Verin, 
John Smith (the miller), William Harris, and Francis 
Wickes, had landed upon the shores of Providence Plan- 
tations, they settled upon land previously secured, or 
purchased, Ijy Roger Williams, from the Indians. 

In pitir/idsiiii^ the land from the Indians, Roger Wil- 
liams was only carrying out one of the principles he 
always advocated while at Plymouth and Salem, as well 
at the Providence Plantations: that the Indians were the 
true and rightful owners of the land they occupied, and 
were the only ones who could convey a title to them ; that 
the patent or grant from the king of England could 
convey no title to them to any one, nor could any foreign 
potentate lawfully give away their territory. 

There does not appear to be any written document 
conveying the land from the Indians to Roger Williams 
until March 24th, 1638, when the following deed, or memo- 
randum, as it was called, was given and signed by the 
two great chieftains Canonicus and Miantonomo, chiefs 
of the Narragansett Indians: 

"At Nanhiggansick the 24th of the first month com- 
monly called Alarch in the second year of our plantation 
or planting at JNIooshausick or Providence. Alemo- 
randum: that we Caunaunicus and Meauntunomi, the 


two chief sachems of Nanhiggansick, having two years 
since sold unto Roger WilHams, the lands and meadows 
upon the two fresh rivers called Mooshausick and Woon- 
asquatucket, do now by these presents establish, and 
confirm the bounds of those lands, from the river and 
fields at Pawtucket, the great hill of Neotaconkonitt, on 
the North-west, and the town of Mashapauge on the west. 
As also in consideration of the many kindnesses and ser- 
vices he hath continually done for us, both with our 
friends of Massachusetts, as also at Quinickicutt and 
Apaum or Plymouth, we do freely give unto him all that 
land from those rivers reaching to Pawtuxet River, as 
also the grass and meadows upon said Pawtuxet river, 
"In Witness where of we have hereunto set our hands 


"The mark of _<::zrtrr>^, Caunaunicus 

"The mark of y Aleauntonomi 

"In the presence of 

"The mark of ^^ Seatash 
"The mark of ^ Assotemenit 

" 1639 Memorandum 3'* mo g'^ day. This was all 
again confirmed by INIiantonomi, he acknowledged this 
his act and hand up the streams of Pawtucket and Paw- 
tuxet without limits, we might have for our use of cattle 
"Witness hereof 

"Roger Williams 
"Benedict Arnold" 

This deed, or memorandum, is the first or earliest land 
conveyance found recorded in the early records of Provi- 
dence, and without doubt the earlier sale spoken of in 
this deed was a verbal agreement. 


During tlic summer of the same year that Roger Wil- 
liams arrived he was joined by six others, who arrived 
in time to receive their allotment in the first division of 

After the first division of land into home sites, and six- 
acre lot of meadow land, the balance of the land lying 
upon the Mooshausick and Woonasquatuckct rivers to 
the limit of the grant was called the common, and in- 
cluded all land not sold or allotted to any of the settlers, 
and extended north up the \\'oonasquatucket river seven 
miles from Fox Point to a bound called the seven-mile 
line, which is about where the Smithfield line is now 

As the colony increased in number, and personal safety 
became more secure, the pioneers naturally pushed their 
way back into the country a few miles from the Providence 
settlement, and took up land from the commons; and as 
this practice grew, it became evident that a more business- 
like method of conveying land titles must be had in order 
that confusion might not result, and a committee was 
appointed with full power to sign deeds of land in behalf 
of the colony, this committee consisting, in 1669, of John 
Throckmorton, Arthur Fenner, and Henry Brown. The 
writer has in his possession one of the deeds executed by 
this committee in 1669. The deed is written upon parch- 
ment, and is yet in a fair state of preservation for a docu- 
ment so old, but very few of these deeds being now in 

Among those to thus push out into the common land 
and take up holdings therein were Thomas Angell, John 
Smith, Epenetus Olney, and Richard Pray, and these men 
appear to have been the pioneers in the settlement of that 


portion of the Woonasquatucket valley which afterward 
became known as Centerdale. 

Of these, Thomas Angell came from England in 163 1 
wlien he was a lad of some 12 or 13 years, and apparently 
in charge of Roger Williams, whose protege he seems to 
have been, not only accompanying the founder of Provi- 
dence from England to Boston, but later making one of 
the party of five who came with Roger Williams from the 
Massachusetts colony in 1636. 

When the first division of land was made among Provi- 
dence settlers Thomas Angell received, in common with 
the others, a six-acre lot of land, although he was clearly 
too young to sign the civil agreement entered into by the 
other members of the pact, but which he signed afterwards. 
His lot, however, was number two on the division list, 
and included the land on which the First Baptist Church 
of Providence now stands, and a part of the section 
traversed by Angell street. 

Thomas Angell married and had two sons, John and 
James; and five daughters, Amphillis, Mary, Deborah, 
Alice, and INIargaret. He died in 1695; but during his 
life he had taken up several tracts of land, and one of these 
claims he gave to his grandson, James Angell, son of 
John Angell, who soon afterwards sold it to his brother, 
John Angell, Junior. This farm was located on the west 
side of the Woonasquatucket river, and included the land 
near the present railroad crossing, at Centerdale, ex- 
tending along the west side of the river nearly to the 
Smithfield line as now laid out. This farm contained 
about 200 acres, and covered the present site of the village 
of Graniteville as well as a portion of Centerdale. 

By deed dated July 26th, 1728, John Angell, Jr., con- 


veyed a part of this farm to his son Stephen, who became, 
by the death of his father in 1 744, the owner of the whole 
farm, where he Hved and raised a large family, nine boys 
and two girls. One of these boys, John Angell, was 
among the first to enlist in the Revolutionary War, having 
promptly joined General Warren, at Bunker Hill, where 
he assisted in throwing up the embankments at that place 
and took part in the battle which followed. He served 
in the Continental Army throughout the war, and received 
the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. 

Stephen Angell died in 1772 and willed the place to his 
son William, who afterwards disposed of it to his brother 
Daniel. After Daniel came into possession of the farm 
he, in 1774, erected the house, now standing in Granite- 
ville, and generally known to local people as the Olney 
W. Angell place. 

When Daniel Angell died. May 9th, 1810, he gave the 
farm to his son Olney; and upon the death of Olney 
Angell, in 1856, he dying intestate, his son Olney W. 
Angell purchased it; the farm, in the meantime, having 
been divided into a number of small farms and home 
sites, leaving less than one-half of the original farm to be 
disposed of in this manner. 

Upon the death of Olney W. Angell, February 5th, 
1879, he, too, dying intestate, it passed to his children, who 
still, 1909, hold it in common with each other. And thus 
we have a complete line of ownership of a large tract, from 
the original grant from the Indians to Roger Williams, 
down to the present day. 

One of the objects in tracing this tract of land, which 
is largely in the village of Graniteville, is that the southerly 
or lower end of the farm is a i)()rtion of the territorv of 




Centerdale, and upon this part was erected the Colonial 
Powder-Mill, an account of which will be given in another 
chapter; and upon this farm was also erected the second 
house built in the village of Centerdale. 

The original proprietors of the land on the east side of 
the river where the village of Centerdale is located were 
John Smith, Epenetus Olney, and Richard Pray. To 
establish the exact boundary of the several allotments 
would be impossible, but by patient research a map of 
the original farms has been prepared for this work; 
and reference thereto will serve to give a general idea of 
their location. No claim is made, for this map, of absolute 
accuracy in regard to scale ; but the street lines are correct, 
and the boundary lines of the farm are as near correct 
as they can be made, after the lapse of about 250 years, 
with the very indefinite land records of the first 100 years 
as a guide. And to one unacquainted with old land- 
marks and local history, the reproduction of a map of 
the claims of the original owners would be a difficult, if 
not impossible, task. 

In taking up a farm from the original rights, or the 
commonings as they were called in the early days of the 
colony, the idea is suggested that the settlers were familiar 
with the old saying, "git a plenty while ye are gitting," 
for the farms in those days contained 100, 200, and some- 
times 300, acres, and usually every man owned several 
farms in different parts of the colony. 

The land where the business center of the village of 
Centerdale is located was taken up from the commonings 
by John Smith, about 1680; but which of the many John 
Smiths it was who secured this land is not easy to deter- 
mine, because John was a favorite name with the Smith 


family in those early days, as at the present time, the name 
occurring so often that some designation, or title, was often 
used to denote the John Smith referred to as John Smith, 
Senior; John Smith, Junior; John Smith, "Mason;" 
John Smith, "Miller;" John Smith, "Carpenter;" and, 
sometimes, plain John Smith. 

However, it is certain that John Smith (probably the 
miller) took up this land, and also that he had a son John 
Smith; and when John Smith, Senior, died, a portion of 
his estate lying upon the east side of the Woonasc^uatucket 
river was given to his son John Smith, Junior. This 
farm contained i6o acres, and was bounded as follows: 
Starting at a point on the Woonasquatucket river a few 
rods beyond the present junction of Waterman avenue 
and Smith street, and running in an easterly direction 320 
rods, or nearly one mile; thence running in a southerly 
direction 80 rods, or one-quarter of a mile; thence running 
in a westerly direction 320 rods to the river; thence fol- 
lowing the river in a northerly direction to the first-men- 
tioned bound. (See map.) 

John Smith, while he was still living, gave the farm to 
two of his sons, Philip and William, who owned it jointly. 

After the death of Philip, his wife, Sarah Smith, was 
appointed administratrix upon his estate, and as Philip 
Smith owed his father a considerable sum of money, she 
turned over his half, or share, of the farm to his father to 
secure him from loss of the money loaned. This share 
was that part lying upon the Woonasquatucket river, and 
is where the village of Centerdale is situated. 

March 15, 1736, John Smith sold the farm to John 
Whipple, who probably bought it on speculation, for he 
soon afterwards, on January 6th, 1737, sold the same to 


Nathaniel Day, who came from Attleboro, Massachusetts, 
and who made it his homestead place until his death. 
The house is still standing, and is a little distance north 
of the line of Mineral Spring avenue, nearly opposite the 
junction of Brown street, and is now the property of 
Charles A. Brown. 

James Angell, son of Stephen, who was great grandson 
of the original Thomas Angell, mentioned in this chapter, 
and brother of Col. John Angell of Revolutionary fame, 
won the hand of Amey, daughter of Nathaniel Day, and 
they were married February i, 1760. The enterprising 
and industrious habits of this young man so greatly 
pleased his wife's parents that, in 1770, Nathaniel Day 
deeded one-half of his farm to his son-in-law, and in 1772 
he gave him the other half of the farm, together with 
other lands, including one-eighth of the saw-mill property, 
standing on Richard Coman's land, stating in the deed 
of gift that he did so from the great love and confidence he 
had in James Angell. 

Upon the death of Nathaniel Day, James Angell and 
his wife continued to live upon the homestead, and there 
eleven children were born to them; the two youngest, 
James and Nathaniel, being, however, the only ones who 
remained permanently in this locality and were directly and 
prominently identified in the future progress of the village. 

Upon the death of James Angell, Senior, he gave the 
homestead farm to his youngest son, Nathaniel, who con- 
tinued to live upon it until his death, August 14, 1872; or, 
to be exact, upon such part of it as he had not disposed 
of during his lifetime. After his death the remainder of 
the farm was platted and sold for home sites; the plat 
being known as the Nathaniel Angell plat. 


Nathaniel's brother, James, not receiving any part of 
his father's property, Hke many other enterprising young 
men, started out to make his own fortune, and learned 
the carpenter's trade, serving his apprenticeship with his 
brother Emor, and was considered an expert carpenter. 
In 1824 he purchased from his brother Nathaniel a por- 
tion of the homestead place, this purchase being the part 
which now constitutes the business portion of the village 
of Centerdale. He continued to own and improve this 
part of it until his death, in 1870, when he gave it to his 
youngest son, James Halsey Angell; and at the latter's 
death, in 1890, it passed to his two sons, George F. and 
Frank C. Angell, the last-named having still in his pos- 
session a large part of the estate. Thus we have a com- 
plete line of ownership of the central part of the village, 
from the Indians in 1636 to the present time (1909). 

The land adjoining the Smith claim on the north (see 
map) was taken up from the original rights by Richard 
Pray; but it is impossible to determine the exact date, as 
he was an extensive land owner and took up land from 
the commonings in different parts of the colony, the de- 
scriptions of which, as given in the deeds, are so confusing 
and indefinite that many of the claims are impossible to 

But it is certain that Richard Pray was in the colony 
and bought land as early as 1652, and his name does not 
appear upon the record as living in this section later than 
1 714. It appears that he sold his claim here to Richard 
Coman, in 1700. This Richard Coman died in 1716; Init 
the name of Richard seems to have been a favorite one 
with the Coman family, for it was handed down through 
several generations, and the last member of the family to 


own this land was named Richard; the name of Coman, 
however, finally disappearing from the records of this 
section about the year 1825. 

In the year 1810, when cotton-spinning by water-power 
was still in its infancy, William Bellows and Jonathan 
Congdon foresaw the advantages offered by the Woon- 
asquatucket river, and bought a portion of the land owned 
by Richard Coman, including the saw-mill and grist-mill 
privileges, together with the adjoining land owned by 
Nathaniel Angell, James Angell, and others, with the 
right to raise the dam. They, however, for want of 
capital, and knowledge of the business, abandoned the 
idea of erecting a mill, and March 8, 181 2, sold the land 
to Israel /\rnold. 

Arnold immediately set to work to build the mill, an 
account of which will be given in another chapter ; but in 
1823 he sold the premises to Richard Anthony, who in 
1838 sold the same to Joseph Cunliff, who, with others to 
whom he had mortgaged it, sold it in 1859 to Amos N. 
Beckwith, the property remaining with the Beckwith 
family until January i8gi, when it was sold to ]Messrs. 
Green and Baldwin, who afterwards sold it to the present 
owners, James Lister, William Mackie, and William 
Dracup, who still own it under the corporate name of 
the Centerdale Worsted Company. 

The original proprietor of the land south of the Smith 
claim was Epenetus Olney, who was the second son of 
Thomas Olney, one of the original twelve settlers who 
received a home share and meadow land from Roger 
Williams's first purchase from Canonicus and Mianto- 
nomo. He was not, however, one of the little partv who 
came with Roger Williams, but he joined them soon 


after, and in time to receive his share when the first 
division of land was made. Thomas Olney was promi- 
nent in the pubHc affairs of the colony, and was elected 
its first treasurer. He came from London in the ship 
"Planter," with his wife (who was Mary Small), in 1635. 
They had, at the time of their arrival in Boston, two 
sons: Thomas, 3 years old, and Epcnetus, one year old. 
Other children were born to them ; Ijiit as Epenetus is the 
only one who settled in the immediate vicinity of Center- 
dale, no effort will be made to follow the descendants of 
the other children of Thomas Olney. 

Few family names occur more frequently in land con- 
veyances of this section than that of Olney, and their 
frequent purchases and exchanges, with the very indefinite 
boundaries, render it difficult, and in many cases im- 
possible, to determine the exact location of all the holdings 
of Thomas Olney and his descendants. But it is certain 
that the land south of the Smith claim (see map) was 
taken up from the original rights by Epenetus Olney, 
about one-half of the farm in May, 1675, the rest in June, 
1686. He died in 1698, and his son Epenetus, Jr., re- 
ceived as his share of his father's estate a tract of land 
containing about 120 acres, joining on the south the land 
of John Smith, and extending westerly to the Woonas- 
quatucket river (see map). Here he erected a house and 
made it his homestead place, residing there until his 
death, September 17, 1740. This house was the first 
house erected in Centerdale, and is situated on Angell 
avenue, and is now the residence of Thomas H. Angell. 
(r\.n account of this house will be given in another chapter.) 

After the death of Epenetus Olney, Jr., the farm passed 
to his eldest son, James, who lived there until his death. 


February loth, 1770, when he gave it to his son Samuel. 
In 181 3, Samuel dying intestate, James Burr was ap- 
pointed administrator upon his estate, and sold the place 
to Isaac Bullard, who, shortly afterwards, in 1816, con- 
veyed the place to James Burr, and in 1835, after the 
death of James Burr, about 50 acres of the farm, or that 
part lying between Smith street and the Woonasquatucket 
river, was sold by the heirs of James Burr to James Angell, 
who had previously, in 1824, bought the adjoining land 
upon the north from his brother Nathaniel. 

It is upon these two sections owned by James Angell 
that the greater part of the village of Centerdale is now 

After the death of James Angell, November 22, 1870, 
that part of his estate passed to his son, James Halsey 
Angell, who held it until his death, July ist, 1890, when 
it passed to his two sons George F. and Frank C. Angell. 

George F. Angell received as his share that part of 
what is now know as River \'iew plat, lying south of 
Steere street and between Woonasquatucket avenue and 
the river. 

The rest of the land is still in the possession of Frank 
C. Angell, who platted that part lying between Smith 
street and Woonasc|uatucket river avenue into home sites, 
the plat being known as Highland Park plat. 

The rest of the Epenetus Olney farm, after the death of 
James Burr, reniained in the Burr family until 1855, 
with the exception of a few acres which were sold to 
Randall H. and Sarah Tallman, in 1854. 

The remainder, including the house, was sold by the 
heirs of Burr to Alartha A. Farnum, in 1855 ; and December 
22d, 1856, she sold the same to INIary A. Ycomans, who 


in 1865 sold the property to Thomas Holden Angell, who 
still, in 1909, owns and occupies the homestead house and 
land surrounding it. In 1898 he sold a portion of it to 
Frank C. Angell, who platted it into home sites, the plat 
being known as Highland Park annex. 

No attempt has been made to note the various sub- 
divisions of the three original claims, as the object of this 
chapter was to follow the direct line of ownership of the 
land received from the Indians to the present time. By 
referring to the maps in this work, the principal sub- 
division can be readily followed out. 

The Colonial Saw-Mill. 

His echoing axe the settler swung 

Amid the sea-Hke soHtude, 
And rushing, thundering, down were flung 

The Titans of the wood. 

— A. B. Street. 

AFTER the axe of the pioneer had made a clearing 
in the forest, and by persistent industry and perse- 
verance had changed the clearing into fertile fields, their 
attention was next directed towards providing more com- 
fortable homes for their families, who had already braved 
many cold New England winters in their rude log-cabins. 

Among the first obstacles that confronted the early 
settlers was the entire absence of proper material with 
which to construct comfortable homes. Saw-mills, brick 
and lime kilns, were unknown to the new country; the 
slow and laborious process of the saw-pit afforded no 
relief, except for such limited supply of boards that were 
needed for farm-wagons, doors, etc. 

As late as 1680 there were but four saw-mills in the 
colony, and they were widely distributed over a large 
tract of territory extending from Woonsocket to Paw- 
tuxet; so the settler was compelled to erect such shelter 
as he could from the means at hand. 

To copy the wigwam of the Indian would furnish but a 
poor substitute for the comfortable homes many of them 


had left behind them in the old country, and but little 
protection against the attacks of the Indians, who were 
soon jealous of the encroachment of the white man upon 
their hunting-grounds. 

So the log-cabin was their only resort, and for a time 
they must be content with their rude quarters, with the 
scanty light from the open door or perhaps a lone window, 
which must be securely closed with a strong plank shutter 
at night as a protection against an attack from the Indians 
or from wild beasts which roamed the forest; and to keep 
out the cold in the winter, in the daytime oiled paper was 
used as a substitute for glass, as but little glass was 
brought to this country in the early colonial days. 

About the year 1680 Captain Richard Arnold turned his 
attention to the building of saw-mills, in different parts 
of the colony wherever sufficient water-power and supply 
of logs could be secured to make it profitable. He had 
already one in operation at Woonsocket in 1680, and had 
in 1700 secured the right to dam the Woonasciuatucket 
river at Centerdale and Georgiaville and Stillwater in 
1 702 ; also the right to dam the West river and to erect a 
mih near Wansku.^k in 1706. 

According to the early records of the town of Providence, 
about the year 1700 he built a saw-mill upon the Woon- 
asquatucket river, a little over five miles from the salt 
water harbor, and it is designated therein as Captain 
Richard Arnold's new saw-mill. The mill was located 
near the southerly end of the dam of the Centerdale 
Worsted Co., about 125 feet from the highway. The 
location of the dam was practically the same as the present 
one. Arnold did not buy the land, but obtained per- 
mission to connect the dam to the banks of the stream 


from the abuttin<^ owners, and erected the mill upon the 
east side of the river on land belonging to Richard Pray. 

Just how long he operated the mill is not known; but 
as there is no mention made of the mill in his will, he must 
have disposed of it before his death, April 22d, 1710, to 
Richard Coman, who, a short time before, bou,^ht the 
land from Richard Pray. 

About 1750, the mill being much out of repair, the 
farmers banded together, forming a sort of company, and 
repaired the old mill and set it in operation again. 

The following are the names of the shareholders in 
1765, as far as can be obtained: Richard Coman, 
Stephen Angell, Nathaniel Day, Charles Olney, Nemiah 
Smith, and William Goddard; each owning one-eighth or 
one-sixteenth part, according to the number of shares 

The mill changed hands many times, as the proprietors 
died, and in 1800 the owners were reduced to three: James 
Angell, Richard Corman, and William Goddard. 

As logs were becoming scarce, and the mill, from old 
age, had fallen into decay, it was finally abandoned about 
the year 1840; thus bringing to a close the first business 
enterprise established in the village of Centerdale, after an 
existence of about 140 years. 

In 1787 Isaac Olney built a grist-mill upon the west side 
of the river, opposite the saw-mill, upon the site of the 
powder-mill, which was destroyed in 1779 (an account of 
which is given in another chapter), using the same water- 
wheel that was used for grinding the powder. The mill 
continued at this place until 1797, when he sold it to 
William Goddard, who removed the mill across the river 
and continued to run the srist-mill in connection with the 


saw-mill of which he was part owner. The grist-mill 
continued in operation long after the saw-mill was given 
up, but was finally abandoned about 1852. 


The First House. 

THE first house in Centerdale was built by Epenetus 
Olney, son of Epenetus, who was the second son of 
Thomas Olney, one of the twelve pioneers who was with 
Roger Williams when the first division of land was made 
in the Providence Plantations in 1636. 

After the death of Epenetus Olney, Senior, his son 
Epenetus received, as a part of his share of his father's 
estate, about 120 acres of land bordering upon the east 
bank of the Woonasquatucket river and extending in an 
easterly direction along the southerly line of the land of 
John Smith. (See map.) 

The colonial road traversed the farm, and for a short 
distance formed the boundary line between this and the 
land of John Smith; this road is now known as Angell 
avenue, and it was upon the east side of this road that 
Epenetus Olney, Jr., over 200 years ago, built his home, 
the first house erected in the village of Centerdale. 

After a lapse of more than 200 years, and obscured by 
the very indefinite records of the early days of the colony, 
it is impossible at this time to place the exact date when 
the house was built; but from the following account an 
approximate time can be fixed with reasonable accuracy. 

March 9th, 1666, Epenetus Olney, Sr., married Mary, 
a daughter of John Whipple, and eight children were 
born to them, viz. : Mary, James, Sarah, Epenetus, 
John, Mercy, Thomas, and Lydia. He died June 3d, 



1698, leaving no will, in which case under the old English 
law the property would pass to the oldest son (James). 

The First House. Epenetus Olney Homestead, 1700-2. 

But James, knowing that his father had often expressed 
a wish that his estate might be divided among his children, 
proceeded to divide the property in accordance with his 
father's desires, and, according to the records of the town 
of Providence, in deed book No. 2, page 34, James Olney 
conveyed to his brother Epenetus a tract of land containing 
about 120 acres, stating in the deed, . . . ''And it 
being so that my l^rother Epenetus Olney is now desirous 
to settle, and be accommodated with some of his father's 
lands to himself, and hath already begun a settlenuiit upon 
some part tJiereoj by building, jencing, and planting 
thereon y 

This deed is dated xA.ugust 29, 1702, and establishes a 
time when the house was alreadv built, l)v declarinsi; that 


he had already begun a settlement upon some part thereof 
by building, fencing, and planting thereon. 

There still might be a question of location (as the 
boundaries of those old farms were very obscure and 
indefinite, they often being bounded by a tree, a clump 
of bushes, some one's garden, fence, or a cornfield), but 
from a deed recorded in the same book. No. 2, page 34, 
from other parties, stating that said land was at ''Jiis farm 
where he now divelleth "... and it further states 
that it was bounded by a highway lying between // and 
John Smith land, ... to those familiar with old 
landmarks this tract can be easily located. This deed is 
dated May 30, 1702. This furnishes further evidence 
that the house was built previous to May 30, 1702, and 
was upon land joining the land of John Smith; which 
establishes the fact that it was upon what is now known 
as Angell avenue, Centerdale, and now is the residence of 
Thomas H. Angell. Without doubt he built the house 
sometime after the death of his father, in 1698, and before 
1702; so it might be safe to say it was built about the year 

Although there are no important historic associations 
connected with the homestead of Epenetus Olney aside 
from the fact that it was built by one of the very early 
settlers of this section, and was the first house built in 
the village of Centerdale, but from the fact that there has 
been a mistake made in locating the homestead of Epenetus 
Olney, it seems but right and proper at this time to cor- 
rect the error. 

In a work entitled "State of Rhode Island and Provi- 
dence Plantations at the end of the Century," edited by 
Edward Field, A. B., in Vol. Ill, page 627, the Epenetus 


Oliiov house is illustrated and located on the west side 
of Woonasquatucket avenue, nearly opposite Emanuel 

Tlie house and farm described was known bv local 
people as the Obadiah Olney farm. Obadiah was the 
son of Charles Olney and grandson of Epenetus, Jr., was 
born August 15. 1773, married Ruth Barton in 1793, 
and died in 1858. Without doubt this house was built 
bv him soon after his marriage; consequently was only 
about 100 years old when torn do\ATi in 1898; while the 
real Epenetus Olney house antedates this house nearly or 
quite 100 years, and is still in a good state of preservation 
for a house more than 200 years old. 

The following account taken from the early records of 
the town of Providence, \'ol. IX. page 66. will furnish 
conclusive evidence and proof of the place in question: 

'\\t a meeting of the Town Council held September 3, 
1733, a committee was appointed to lay out a high way 
through the stated commons and to pass near the dwelling 
house of Epenetus Olney." 

September 26 and 27th. 1733, the committee proceeded 
and laid cTut the same, and October 22d. 1733, presented 
their report, as follows: 

"Persuant to an order of the Towne Councill of Provi- 
dence held the 3^^ day of September anno Domini 1733 
for the Laying out of a highway, from the highway that 
was Already Layed out through that which was Com- 
monly Called the stated Common, and from thence to 
Extend northwestwardly neare the Dwelling house of 
Epenetus Olney: and so to the north bounds of the Towne 
of Providence. 

"\Miere upon wee the subscribers being a Committee 
appo\*nted by the afore said Town Councill for the Com- 
pleating s^ work went according to said order: and took 


our departure from a Pine tree standing in or Xeare the 
north line Line of the To\s-n of Pro\-idence, and from 
thence: S: 35: degrees East: 2,2: pole: to the East End of 
Stephen Angels Bame: thence S: 25*^— & * E: 25 pole to 
a walnut bush: thence S: 10"^ W: 18: pole to a stake: 
thence: S: 20*^ W 34: P: to a stake thence: S: 46*^ E: 17: 
P— to a Rock: thence S: 35'' & ^ E 24: P: to a Pine bush: 
thence: S: 24"^— E: 20 P to a Pine bush thence 8:45'^ — 
E: 20 P to a pine bush: thence 5:40^* & ^ E: 14 P to a 
pine bush: thence S: S'^ E: 8. P to a pine bush thence S: 
34^. £ — j^. p to a pme bush: thence: X: 54^^— E: 20 P 
to a stake standing on the west side of the Wonasquo- 
tuckett River thence E : 6: P: a Cross said River to a heape 
of stones it being a Bounder of M' John Smiths Land 
the three Last Courses are Laid: 3: Poles wide: thence S 
^gd — £. 20: P: to a white oake tree thence: S: 31*^ — E 
30 p to a black oake tree: thence S: 65'' E: 14 P to a 
black oake tree: thence X: So*^— E: 10: P to a Rock 
thence X': -,2^ — E: 32: P: to a black oake thence X: ^2^: 
E: 7: P to a black oake tree: thence: S: 20*^— E: 4: to a 
white oake tree: thence: S: 46'' — : E: 19: P— to a black 
oake tree thence: S: 29'*— E: 9: P to a Popple tree thence: 
S: 12^ W: 9 P to a Rock thence: S: 28'' — E: 14 P: to a 
stone in Epenetus Ohieys Orchard: thence S: 72° — E: 
10 P to an Apple tree." ' . . . (See map of old road.) 

As will be observed, the courses and distances are given 
with great minuteness, and bounds designated with great 
care (like a pine bush, a stake, a white oak. black oak. or 
an apple tree) to the Woonasquatucket river. After cross- 
ing the river (the landmark being well known at the present 
dav) the courses and distances in poles are carefully given 
to a stone in Epenetus Olney's orchard, making the dis- 
tance from the river to said bound stone 168 poles, which 
is less than a dozen poles from the house of Epenetus 
Olnev, now the residence of Thomas H. Angell, and about 


the distance the orchard would naturally be from the 
house. (See early records of the town of Providence, 
\^ol. IX, pages 65, 66, 67, 68, or in the original Book of 
Records, No. 3, page 200.) While the Obadiah Olney 
place, which has been mistaken for the Epenetus Olney 
farm, is fully one mile further down the river, and no 
public highway was laid out by this place until 1844 
(over one hundred years afterwards), when Woonasqua- 
tucket avenue was built (see chapter VI), the only way to 
reach it before that time was by a private driveway 
connecting with Fruit Hill avenue. 

As a further evidence may be cited the deed of Nathaniel 
Day to James Angell, in 1770, in which the farm con- 
veyed was bounded on the south by the land of Samuel 
Olney, who was the son of James and grandson of Epe- 
netus Olney, and up to the year 1770 there had been but 
three Samuels in the Olney family. (See Olney jNIemorial, 
a genealogy of the descendants of Thomas Olney, by 
James H. Olney.) 

One was the son of Joseph Olney the noted inn-keeper, 
who kept the old tavern, in 1776, on the corner of Olney 
and North Main streets, Providence, in whose yard stood 
the old Liberty Tree. His son Samuel was drowned in 
the Mississippi river in 1774. 

Another was Samuel, son of Ezra Olney, who was born 
1765, and consequently would be but five years old in 
1770, and too young to have a farm in his own name. 
While Samuel, son of James Olney, and grandson of 
Epenetus, was born in 1745, and lived u])on the place 
referred to until his death in 18 13. 

Upon the death of Samuel Olney, who died intestate, 
James Burr (a grand-nephew) was appointed admin- 


istrator upon his esate, and sold the farm to Isaac Buhard, 
who afterwards, in 1816, conveyed it back to James 
Burr. After the death of Burr the estate passed out of 
the descendants of Epenetus Olney's family, as described 
in chapter II. 

At the time the house was built it was about one-half 
its present size: the east end, or about one-half its length, 
w^as the part built by Epenetus Olncy, or as far back as 
the big old-fashioned chimney, which in those days was 
often built at the end of the house, and many times 
extending outside of the main body of the house. The 
west end was built sometime later; the exact time is not 
known, but probably after the death of Epenetus, in 1740. 

The house is still in a good state of preservation for a 
house more than 200 years old, and is the property and 
homestead place of Thomas H. Angell, who was town 
clerk of North Providence twenty-five years, or until poor 
health compelled him to decline a re-election in November 

The Revolutionary Powder-Mill. 

THE people of every locality are justly proud of the 
part they or their ancestors have taken in any im- 
portant event whether of local or of national importance; 
and visiting friends and strangers are sure to have pointed 
out to them the noted house, or the exact spot, where the 
honored and memorable event occurred. 

It is true that during the stirring times incident to the 
American Revolution, no battles were fought in the im- 
mediate neighborhood of Centerdale; and there is no 
evidence that a British officer or even a red-coated private 
was sheltered under the roof of the lone house which 
then marked the site of the now flourishing little village. 

But Centerdale is not without memories of the Revolu- 
tion. Should you ask a resident of the village what im- 
portant part was taken by the people of this locality in the 
struggle for independence, you w^ould have pointed out 
to you the place where was situated the Revolutionary 
powder-mill, the first and only one erected by the colony 
of Rhode Island, and provided one of the most important 
and powerful agents that gained for us our liberty and 

The years 1775 and '76 were times of stirring interest 
to the people of the thirteen colonies. 

Rhode Island and her sister colonies were actively 
preparing for the great struggle that was clearly inevitable. 
The people of Boston had already held their tea party, the 


lantern had been lighted in the belfry of Old South Church, 
the " Gaspee " destroyed, and the sands of Bunker Hill 
had been stained with the blood of brave patriots. 

Everywhere in village and town men congregated in 
little groups, earnestly discussing the events that had 
already transpired, and pledging support to each other, 
and allegiance to the cause they had espoused. 

The Rhode Island legislature was convened, and action 
taken to secure the safety of the State from an invading 

Military companies were organized in all of the little 
hamlets as well as in the larger towns. Committees of 
safety were formed and were gathering together all of the 
muskets and swords that had long lain idle in the homes of 
the colonists. 

Without doubt but few realized the magnitude of the 
great struggle that was before them, nor were they con- 
scious that they were preparing the way for the birth of a 
great nation, and that ere long would behold the sun rise 
in all its morning splendor, and reflect its golden rays 
upon the grandest nation upon the earth; dedicated and 
consecrated to the cause of liberty and freedom. 

But how few of them were conscious of the fact that 
the exigencies of war would draw so heavily upon their 
resources or call upon many homes to sacrifice upon the 
altar of freedom a loved one; a son, perhaps, or a husband 
and father, forever saddening the happy fireside. 

Well and truly does Judge Staples say in the "Annals 
of Providence:" "The price they paid for liberty and 
independence perhaps cannot be estimated by any of the 
present inhabitants. We can count up the millions of 
dollars expended and number the lives that were lost in 


that contest. But who can form an estimate of the 
sufferings of the inhabitants at large, and of the priva- 
tions they bore in raising that sum; or of the affliction 
and sorrow and pain that preceded and followed the 
deaths of the martyrs of freedom? 

''Want and misery were not confined to the ranks of 
the soldiery; they pervaded all parts of the country, and 
all classes of society. Pain and sickness and sorrow did 
not revel merely in the camp. They spread their de- 
vastating influence to the home of the soldier. If he 
returned himself, he bore with him the seeds of sickness, 
and spread them in his family, to blast his hopes of future 
comfort and joy. If he fell in battle, the mother, the wife, 
the child, drank of the cup of sorrow and suffering. 

"The idea that can now be formed of the scenes of the 
revolution must be very faint and imperfect. It may well 
be doubted whether the most vivid imagination can paint 
the picture with all its horrors. How grateful must have 
been the news of peace, under such circumstances, to the 
war-worn veteran and his care-worn family — peace with 
liberty — liberty with independence, all that he wished, 
nay, more than he dreamed of at the outset, wrung from 
the grasp of the mother country." . . . 

It was evident to all that most of the munitions of war 
must be manufactured at home. Bounties were offered 
to those who would undertake the manufacture of supplies 
for the needs of the army that was about to enter the 
field. Cannon must be cast, muskets and swords manu- 
factured, powder and balls provided. 

Until the summer of 1776 all gunpowder used in the 
colony of Rhode Island was secured from outside the 
colony, most of it coming from Groton and New London, 


Connecticut; being transported to the State magazine in 
Providence by boat, or overland by horses or oxen. 

On account of the difficuhy of obtaining powder from 
these places after the opening of hostilities, it was decided 
to encourage the manufacture of it within the colony, and 
the following resolution was passed by the General Assem- 
bly at the January session, 1776. 

"And where as it is necessary that one powder Mill be 
immediately erected in the colony for the manufacturing 
of gun powder 

"Be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid that a 
bounty or premium of Thirty Pounds, shall be paid out 
of the Colony Treasury, to the person or persons who 
shall erect a powder-mill in this Colony and shall make 
and manufacture therein Five hundred pound weight of 
good and merchantable gun-powder. 

"And where as, it is expedient that such Powder Mill 
should be situated as to accommodate the public in the 
best manner." 

The bounty of thirty pounds did not offer sufficient in- 
ducement for anyone in the colony to undertake the risk 
of manufacturing a product that they had so little knowl- 
edge of, and, realizing the pressing need of it, the colonial 
government decided to undertake its manufacture on their 
own account ; and at the May session of the General As- 
sembly, 1776, John Jenckes and John Waterman were ap- 
pointed a committee to procure a suitable site, and erect 
a powder-mill thereon at the charge of the colony as soon 
as possible, and they were authorized to draw out of the 
general treasury "One hundred and Fifty Pounds Lawfull 
money for the purpose." 

The committee immediately set at work to secure a 


suitable site; one that would be convenient to the colony 
magazine, and at a place where water-power could be had 
to reduce the powder to its proper fineness. 

The committee in tlieir search selected a site on the 
Woonasquatucket river in Centerdale. 

The exact location was between the railroad station 
and the dam of the Centerdale Worsted Co., as now 
located. At that time there w^as a saw-mill upon the 
opposite bank of the river, and the State or colony obtained 
the right to use the water from the saw-mill pond to 
operate the powder-mill. 

About the middle of June, of the same year, the mill 
was completed ; but on account of it being a new industry, 
the committee found some difficulty in procuring a man 
sufficiently informed in the process of the manufacture of 
gunpowder to take charge of the mill. 

They reported the fact to the Assembly who, alive 
to the necessity of taking active steps to set the mill in 
operation as c|uickly as possible, instructed and autliorized 
John Waterman to procure a man at some price, or upon 
the best terms he could make, to operate the mill. 

He finally succeeded in obtaining the services of a man, 
well versed in the manufacture of gunpowder, by the 
name of Jacob Goff. 

In order that Goff might be with his family, the Assembly 
appropriated two hundred pounds to purchase a piece 
of land and erect a dwelling-house for them, and ap|)ointed 
Jacob Goff and Caleb Harris a committee to superintend 
the JAiilding of the house. 

The house built by the State for Goff was the second 
dwelling-house built within the limits of what is now the 
village of Centerdale, and stood U})on that i)art of the old 


colonial road which was aljandoned as a public highway 
after the completion of the Powder-Mill Turnpike, in 
1 815. The house stood about 125 feet west of the iron 
bridge that crosses the Woonasquatucket river (see map), 
and was destroyed by fire April 14, 1902. 

Dwelling House Built by State for Jacob Goff, 1777. 

Soon after Goff took charge of the mill he secured the 
services of a man by the name of Laban Beverly. In 
August, 1779, the State had a quantity of powder which 
by dampness had become unfit for use, and transported 
it to the i)owder-mill to be remanufactured, as it was 
called. The process of remanufacturing was a hazardous 
operation, but had proceeded without mishap until the 
afternoon of August 28th, 1779, when it was supposed 
that some foreign substance had in some way got into the 
mixing or stamping mortar, when suddenly the place was 
illumined by a lurid glare, followed quickly by a terrific 
explosion, not unlike the deafening crash of a hundred 
thunderbolts, the concussion being felt for many miles 


around, causing fear and alarm in many homes, whc 
fully realized that some terrible disaster had occurred. 
The country around was strewn with the debris from the 
wreck of that which was but a moment before the colonial 
powder-mill. One of the beams from the Ijuilding was 
blown for nearly three-quarters of a mile from the mill. 

After the dense smoke had cleared away it was seen that 
the powder-mill was completely demolished, and that 
Jacob Goff and Laban Beverly had been blown some 
distance and were terribly burned and mangled, but were 
still living: death relieved them of their suffering the 
following evening. 

At the time of the explosion there were about two tons 
of finished powder upon the premises, besides a large 
quantity that was being made over. 

The family of Jacob Goff, consisting of his wife Olive 
Goff and five children, were left destitute, and with no 
relatives who were able to provide for their comfort. 
The facts being made known to the General Assembly, 
with the knowledge that Goff lost his life in the service 
of his country, they immediately granted an allowance 
of six hundred dollars for the relief of the destitute family. 

The State decided not to rebuild the powder-mill, and 
the site lay idle until 1785, when the General Assembly 
ap])ointed a committee, consisting of John J. Jenckes and 
Jabez Bowen, to sell the property. 

In August, 1786, they sold the land and dwelling-house 
to Isaac Olney, also (as the deed descrilx's it) the large 
water-wheel, with all the privileges of the water which the 
State bought of the owners of the saw-mill called the 
"Mudd Mill." 

After Isaac Olney Ijought the property he erected thereon 


a grist-mill, which was the first grist-mill erected here. 
He continued to run the mill until October 27, 1797, when 
he sold it to William Goddard, who removed it across the 
river and ran it in connection with the saw-mill of which 
he was part owner. 

In a work entitled "Revolutionary Defences in Rhode 
Island," by Edward Field, on page 40, the colonial powder- 
mill is erroneously located on the Waterman road near 
the little hamlet known as Caesarville, which is about one 
mile south from its true location. There is no evidence 
that more than one powder-mill was built by the Rhode 
Island colony, during the Revolutionary War, and it is 
well known by old residents of Centerdale that the mill 
was located on the western bank of the Woonasquatucket 
river near the dam of the Centerdale Worsted Mills; and 
as further proof is the positive evidence of the deed of the 
powder-mill site given by Joseph Clark, general treasurer 
of Rhode Island, to Isaac Olney, dated August 24, 1786, 
and recorded in book number two, page 180, of the 
records of the town of Johnston. 

After defining the boundaries of the lot, the following 
additional description is given: . . . "there being 
about one acre and an half of said land with the dwellins: 
house, and the large water wheel w^ith all of the privileges 
of the water which the State bought of the owners of the 
saw mill called the Aludd Mill.''' . . . 

It is common knowledge among elderly people for many 
miles around Centerdale that the saw-mill once located 
here was known by the name of Mudd Mill. After 
Israel Arnold built the spinning-mill here, in 181 2, he 
named the place Center, and it was known by that name 
until in after years it received the affix of "Mill" and 


"Ville," and finally, after the post-office was established 
here, in 1849, it was changed to Centerdale. 

Further evidence can be given that the powder-mill was 
located here from the fact that the old colonial road 
leading from Providence (after the erection of the powder 
mill) was called the Powder Mill road, and in 18 10, when 
the turnpike company was incorporated, it took for its 
corporate name, "The Powder-Mill Turnpike Corpora- 
tion," undoubtedly on account of its following tlie line of 
the old highway leading to the powder-mill and in many 
places using the old roadbed. 

The highway was always called the Powder-^NIill Turn- 
pike until it was purchased by the State in 1873, when 
that part lying in North Providence was named Smith 
street, it being a continuation of Smith street, Provi- 



PREVIOUS to the year 1810 the only pubHc high- 
way leading from Providence via Centerdale to the 
towns in the northern part of the State and the adjoin- 
ing towns in the States of Connecticut and jNIassachusetts 
was the old colonial road ; and from its winding course, 
undoubtedly it was originally a continuation of driveways 
from the farm of one settler to that of another, as the 
pioneers pushed their way back into the new country, and 
in many cases following old Indian trails. 

As the country became more thickly settled, and the 
farmer and trader had more frequent occasion to journey 
to Providence to sell or exchange their produce, the 
necessity for better highways became apparent. To meet 
the recjuirements it was proposed to construct a direct 
turnpike road from Providence to connect with the Glo- 
cester turnpike, which was already completed from the 
northern part of the State as far south as Greenville. 

The prospect of a paying investment and the encourage- 
ment of the starting of a stage line from Putnam, Conn., 
to Providence, caused the organizing of a stock company 
with sufficient capital to undertake the construction of 
the much needed highway, the connecting link between 
the towns near the Connecticut line and Providence via 
the Glocester turnpike road. 

At the February session of the General Assembly, 18 10, 
an act was passed incorporating the Powder-^Iill Turn- 




pike Corporation, consisting of Henry Smith, Philip Allen, 
Richard Olney, Robert Newell, and others, giving them 
the power to construct and maintain a turnpike road 
three rods wide, to begin at Sprague's tavern (a point near 
the junction of the Snake Hill road, in Greenville) at the 
easterly end of the Glocester turnpike road; from thence 
running easterly until it reaches the westerly line of the 
town of Providence, on the plain (as it was called) near 
Fenncr Angel I's, or at such point or place as the committee 
to be appointed shall fix and establish. 

This proposed turnpike road now constitutes the main 
thoroughfare through the village of Centerdale, upon which 
is located the principal business places of the town, and 
is now called Smith street. 

Soon after the act of incorporation was granted by the 
legislature, arrangements were made for the construction 
of the road, and in 1815 it was opened to public travel. 
Like all turnpike roads, the charter provided for the 
repairs and maintenance of the road by a system of 
taxation from all who traveled over it, the tax, or toll, as 
it was called, being collected at certain designated places 
called toll-gates. There were two gates established; one 
being located at the northeast corner of what is now 
called Smith street and Fruit Hill avenue. At that time 
the old Fruit Hill tavern stood there, and was kept by 
James Angell, who afterwards built the Centerdale hotel. 
Mr. Angell was one of the first to collect toll upon the 
new road. 

The other gate was located at the corner of the turnpike 
road and the road that leads to Spragueville, at what was 
afterwards known as the George INIowry tavern, about 
midwav between Centerdale and Greenville. 



The corporation was obliged by law to post a sign- 
Ijoard, or rate-board, as it was called, near the gate, giving 
the rates of toll to be paid before passing through. 

One of the old rate-board is still preserved, and a copy 
of the rates of toll charged is here given : 


or t'v< rv ^^ aiiTo'on. ^»rl,(rnck oi* sh'cl flcaw n hv (\v< 
.iovsvs or f>\cii lO coiiis ifHraAvn b.v (lu-co cftHle 12 <<;n(s 
If «CtH\\ n 1>\ rnoicdian (hrce e«<<lo 13 fci»<s. for everv slcigjll 
DiiUMi h\ <m<» horse 6 eonlsil" drawn hv more <h«n oho 
Horsf vih ten(s.for evorj ooa<h, < h-.u io(.ph-a<toi» or 
[ iirrirle '25oon(s,For everv ehviisi'.f Ijair.sulkey orolher 
[Plevisure <nrri«j»e cirrtwn hv oiio liorso Hi cents for everv 
j\ch(Uion»I horse ft eenls.For everv horse and horse tnr( 
|()r%vai)u;ori (i eeiWs, For a person «n<l horse f>cen(s, horses 
lOrmulesin droves 'i cenispor. he«H.neftl eatde in droves j 
jlcen<per.hertd, sheep or swine in droves i rent j^er. )>e«d| 
Torall loadsover fifty hundrediXHinds I cent per huiuliedj 
'each actdWipnaS. Iimicirccl. "** 

Old Sign of Rates of Toll. 

The Powder-]Mill turnpike was no exception to nearly 
all other turnpike roads in the State, and eventually 
proved a failure as a dividend-paying enterprise. After 
a time the roadbed required extensive repairs, and the 
annoying system of toll-taking became unpopular with the 
public, which induced the towns through which it ran to 
petition to the legislature to purchase the highway, the 
towns agreeing to accept such parts as lay within their 
boundaries as town roads, and to keep the same in re])air. 
Accordingly, at the January session of the General Assem- 
bly in 1873, one thousand dollars was appropriated to 
purchase the road, and it was then thrown open to the 
l)ublic, and declared a free public highway; and August 
3, 1874, that part lying in North Providence was named 


Smith street, it being a continuation of vSmith street, 

The Farnum Turnpike, now Waterman Avenue. 

At the February session of the General Assembly, 1808, 
Joseph Farnum, Caleb Farnum, Stephen Steere, Elisha 
Steere, and others, were granted a charter incorporating 
the Farnum Turnpike Company, whose object was to 
construct a turnpike road from Centerdale, running north- 
erly through Georgiaville to the Appleby road, so-called. 
It was thought that the building of this highway would 
prove a great convenience to the people living in Georgia- 
ville and the surrounding country in Smithfield, by afford- 
ing them a more direct route to Providence. For some 
reason unknown the road was only partially constructed, 
and the charter was allowed to lapse; but at the meeting 
of the General Assembly, in 1819, the charter was revived. 
After continuing along inactive it again lapsed, when 
finally, at the January session, 1828, the charter was again 
revived, and a meeting of the incorporators was ordered 
to be held at the hotel of Winsor Farnum, in Georgiaville, 
on the first Monday in March, 1828. The company was 
then reorganized, and the turnpike was eventually com- 
pleted. The highway, as anticipated, was a source of 
convenience to the public, and remained a turnpike road 
until the January session of the General Assembly, 1873, 
when an appropriation of $500.00 was made to purchase 
the turnpike and make it a free public highway, provided 
the towns through which it passed would accept it as a 
town road and forever keep it in repair. This the towns 
of North Providence and Smithfield ^•oted to do at their 
next town meeting, and in 1873 the P'arnum turnpike 


was declared a free town road. x-\fter the town of North 
Providence accepted the portion lying in that town it was, 
in 1875, named Waterman avenue, in honor of Caleb \\ 
Waterman, an old and respected resident of Centerdale. 

Mineral Spring Turnpike. 

At the June session of the General Assembly, 1825, a 
charter was granted incorporating the Smithfield and 
Glocester Turnpike Corporation, with power to con- 
struct a turnpike road, starting from Pawtucket, running 
thence westerly until it intersected the Powder-Mill turn- 
pike road, at Centerdale; thence running in a westerly 
course through Johnston, Scituate, and Glocester to the 
Connecticut line; from whence it was to continue on to 
Pomfret, Conn. 

The construction of that part west of Centerdale was 
abandoned before any work was commenced, and at the 
October session of the General Assembly the name of the 
corporation was changed to the Mineral Spring Turnpike 
Corporation, the company taking its name from a spring 
near the line dividing the town of North Providence from 
the city of Pawtucket, not far from Orchard avenue. 
This spring is said to be strongly impregnated with some 
mineral, probably iron. 

The following year, 1827, the work of construction was 
begun, opening up a part of the country lying between 
Pawtucket and Centerdale which previously was not well 
provided with a convenient highway running east and 
west, and as Pawtucket was at that time a part of North 
Providence and the seat of government of the town, the 
new highway proved to be a great convenience to the 
people living in and around Centerdale. 


Unfortunately the course of the road lay over long hills, 
requiring frequent and expensive repairs, and the com- 
paratively limited travel over the road resulted dis- 
astrously to the stockholders. The unpopularity of the 
toll-gate system was demonstrated in this case as in others, 
and the enterprise followed the way of similar projects 
in this State. The road was purchased by the town in 
1867, and declared a public highway and named Mineral 
Spring avenue. 


After the completion of INIineral Spring turnpike Cen- 
terdale was well provided with outlets in either direction, 
excepting the country bordering on the Woonascjuatucket 
river, from Ccnterdale to INIanton. 

After the successful spinning and weaving of cotton by 
water-power, the country bordering along the river began 
to be rapidly improved. Daniel Lyman had already built 
a cotton mill at Lymansville, and in 1822 Zachariah Allen 
completed the mill at Allendale. This increasing business 
soon demanded better highway service, the only way of 
reaching those places being by private driveways con- 
structed by the owner of the mills, and not at all adequate 
to public need. It was evident that a highway was needed 
from Centerdale through the villages of Allendale and 
Lymansville to ]\Ianton, connecting with the old road 
now called Manton avenue, from whence one could reach 
Olneyville and Providence with much greater convenience. 

The distance from Centerdale to ^Nlanton was only 
about two miles, and was too short to encourage the 
construction of a turnpike road ; so if a highway was to be 
built, it must be done by the aid of popular subscription. 


This being so, and the need of such a road clearly appar- 
ent, a meeting of the citizens interested was called about 
the first of October, 1843, to consider the matter and 
take such action as might seem expedient. At this meet- 
ing it was voted to build the road by subscription, and 
after its com])letion to have the town accept it as a town 
road . 

A subscription jjaper was drawn up, dated October 2d, 
1843, a copy of which is here given: 

"We the undersigned, for and in consideration of the 
use and benefits derivable from the opening of a level 
public road between Center ^Nlill & Triptown [now Cen- 
terdale and Manton], along the Easterly bank of Woon- 
asquatucket river in North Providence, do hereby agree 
to pay the several sums affixed to our respective names 
for the purpose of constructing said road, to the com- 
mittee of the subscribers who may be hereafter appointed 
to complete the same. 

"North Providence Oct 2'' 1843" 

The paper contains 112 names, with amounts varying 
from $1.00 to $225.00. The total amount subscribed was 
$900.00 in cash, besides all the land needed for the road 
and fencing the same. 

The largest donators were Zacliariali Allen, James 
Angell, Obediali Olncy, Charles Olney, and the Center 
Mill Company. 

As soon as success was assured, a meeting of the sub- 
scribers was called, February 10, 1844, to make the nec- 
essary arrangements for carrying on the work. Elisha 
O. Angell was elected chairman and Zachariah Allen,* 
secretary, and as the record of the meeting is still extant 

* One of Rhode Island's noted cotton manufacturers. 


and in ]Mr. Allen's own handwriting, it is given here in 

"At a Meeting of the subscribers and others interested 
in making a new Road from Center INIill to Triptown 
holden at Center Hotel in North Providence on Saturday 
Feb lo**" 1844 pursuant to notice in the public papers 

"Mr Elisha O Angell w^as elected Chairman & Z Allen 

"It was voted that the following named Gentlemen be 
appointed a committee to collect the Subscriptions for 
building said road, and to make the necessary contracts 
through Mr James Angell, Joseph Cunliff, Elisha O Angell, 
Olney Angell, Z Allen and Asa Steere. 

"Voted that James Angell be appointed Treasurer to 
receive the sums collected by the aforesaid Committee 
and to disburse the same on their joint order 

"Z Allen Secretary" 

The committee immediately advertised for bids for the 
construction of the road, and April, 1844, the contract 
was let to Col. George Smith, who agreed to l^uild the 
road for $900.00 

It is curious to note the form of contract used then in 
comparison with the voluminous form, covering thirty or 
forty printed pages, now in use for work of that kind. 
That one being written upon a scrap of paper scarcely half 
the size of this page, the words occupying al)out a dozen 

It is a curiously worded document, and is here gi\'cn, 
the spelling and capital letters used in the original being 
retained : 

"Aprir'' 1844 
" I James Angell Joseph Cunliff & Elisha () Angell Let 
the Road Leading from Center Village To Triptown to 


Col George Smith for Nine Hundred Dollars Said Smith 
Makes the Road i8 feet on the travil Wide Except the 
Cuts & filling Cuts to be i6 feete at Botton filling i6 ft 
at top. He to Build the travil from Powder ]\Iill Road 
on the West Sid & Gradualy Strike the Center of Road 
accross the Brook, then & there Strikes the East Sid 
at the Rock in the Swamp. We are to advance the money 
as We can Collect & as the Road Advances & Said Smith 
is to Comince Building Road Tuesday April ^'' & is to 
finish Road Soon as Convenant Can Be Built." 

With this (ironclad) contract Col. George Smith set to 
work sometime in April, 1844, to carry out its provisions, 
and in the early part of October of the same year the road 
was completed and ready for public travel. 

The road was afterwards accepted by tlie town as a 
public highway, and named Woonasquatucket avenue. 

This comprises all the main or principal highways that 
lead to or pass through Centerdale. 


TO give the history of transportation through the val- 
ley of the Woonasquatucket to and from Centre- 
dale, it will be necessary to begin the story at the time 
when the farmer's oxen furnished the motive power for 
moving the products of the forest and farm to market; 
and in the early days of the colony it is not supposed that 
the freight traffic exceeded the transportation facilities. 

The passenger traffic was expected to take care of 
itself. People must get to town and back again the best 
way they could: that way, generally, was on foot, with 
their gun for a traveling companion; but the more fortu- 
nate would go on horseback. 

The colonial roads over which they were obliged to 
travel were little better than cartpaths now seen on 
country farms or in the woods, and originally were pass- 
ways from one farm to another and were laid out to 
convenience the parties interested, which accounts for the 
winding course which many of them took. 

The introduction of the cotton and woolen industry 
into the country greatly increased both the freight and 
passenger traffic, which ultimately called for better high- 
ways for moving the products of the mill. 

The poor condition of the roads encouraged the organ- 
izing of turnpike corporations, whose object was the con- 
struction of turnpike roads as an investment and source 
of revenue from toll-gates which were placed at certain 
distances along the road. 


Turnpike roads were generally surveyed and laid out 
in a more direct course than were the colonial roads, 
often shortening the distance to be traveled between 
points one or more miles; but they were far from being 
model highways, such as we now have, but were still a 
great improvement over the old colonial road. An event 
of importance to early Rhode Island people was the com- 
pletion of the Powder-Mill turnpike, in 1815, from Provi- 
dence to Greenville, where it connected with the Glocester 
turnpike,which had already been completed to Chepachet. 
The Glocester pike was here met by the Putnam pike, 
which continued on to Putnam, Conn., thus forming a 
complete turnpike road from Putnam, Conn., to Provi- 
dence, R. I., a distance of about 30 miles. The building 
of these turnpike roads made a promising opening for a 
through stage line from Providence to Putnam. 

This was long before the advent of the steam railroad, 
and for those days the stage-coach furnished satisfactory 
and ample means of communication between Providence 
and Putnam, via Centerdale, Greenville, and Chepachet. 
Although it took two days to make the round trip, the 
traveling puljlic appeared satisfied. This was the first 
public conveyance the people of Centerdale had enjoyed. 

Who the parties were who originated the line is unknown 
at this time; but a man by the name of John Richards was 
at one time a part owner, and was a noted stage driver on 
that line for many years, or until the steam railroad was 
built which connected Putnam witli other important 
places, which rendered the stage line un])r()fita])le, and it 
finally was withdrawn about i860. 

About the year 1845 two brothers, Daniel and Wxston 
Whipple, established a line of stage-coaches from Pascoag 


to Providence, via Chepachet, Greenville, and Centerdale, 
passing over the same road traveled by the Putnam line. 
The venture did not prove a profitable one, and two 
years later they sold out, and bought a line just started 
by Sterry Frye from Georgiaville (then called Nightin- 
gale's) to Providence, via Centerdale. 

This eventually proved to be the popular line for the 
people of Centerdale, as the distance from Georgiaville 
to Providence was only about seven miles, and more trips 
could be made daily and in quicker time. 

In the early days of the line two round trips w^re made 
each day, while a few years later four round trips were 
made ; and the public no doubt considered that they were 
as well provided for as the people to-day are with the 
electric cars running every few minutes. 

In June, 1867, Thomas Wilson Mathewson purchased 
the line from Daniel Whipple (his brother Weston having 
long since withdrawn from the company). 

After selling the route to ISIathewson, Daniel Whipple 
decided to continue in the business, which resulted in a 
spirited rivalry for the passenger traffic between the two 
lines, with the result that the patrons of both lines were 
more benefited by the opposition running than were the 
proprietors; for the fares were soon reduced from twenty- 
five cents to ten cents from Centerdale to Providence, and 
for a time the Whipple, or opposition, line was credited 
with carrying their passengers free and standing treat at 
the end of the route. But it is doulDtful if every passenger 
received his treat, whatever may have been true as regards 

the fare. 

The Whipple line continued to run until 1871, when it 
was withdrawn, leaving the Mathewson line in possession 


of the road, and this continued to run until August nth, 
1873, when the building of the steam railroad put an end 
to the stage line, which was purchased by the railroad 
company, and the stage-coaches withdrawn. 

Several attem]3ts were made, after the railroad was built, 
to establish a line of omnibuses between Centerdale and 
Providence, by Frank Cooper, James Barnes, and James 
H. Angell, but none met with any degree of success. 

It will now be necessary to go back a few years in our 
story, to about the year 1856. 

The rapid development of the cotton and woolen in- 
dustries throughout the northern part of the State caused 
those connected with the manufacturing industries to seek 
for better transportation facilities than the slow and tedious 
method afforded by horses and oxen. 

The project of constructing a railroad from Providence 
through the Woonasquatucket valley to Pascoag attracted 
the attention of some of the prominent Ijusiness men, and 
in 1856 a preliminary survey was made by L. ]M. E. Stone, 
a civil engineer, and it was found that the natural features 
of the country w^re such that the road could be easily 
and economically constructed, and w^ould prove a great 
benefit to the many industries of the northern part of the 

At the January session of the General Assembly in 1857 
a charter was granted under the corporate name of The 
Woonasc|uatucket Railroad. For a time matters looked 
very encouraging for the immediate construction of the 
road; but before sufficient funds could be secured to 
begin the work the financial depression which overspread 
the conntry in 1857 and 1858 caused a delay in building 
the road, this being followed by the breaking out of the 


Civil War in 1861, and the dull times that followed the 
close of the war still further delayed the construction until 

In December, 187 1, a new company was formed and 
elected William Tinkham, president; J. C. Knight, sec- 
retary; Lemuel M. E. Stone, treasurer, superintendent, and 
chief engineer. The old charter was revived and the 
name changed to The Providence and Springfield Rail- 
road, a new survey was made, and vigorous efforts were 
put forth by President Tinkham to complete the road at 
as early a date as possible. Messrs. Clyde & Dillon, of 
New York, received the contract for its construction and 
equipment. The roadbed to be built was about twenty- 
three miles in length, and to expedite its completion was 
sublet in sections of varying lengths. The section passing 
through Centerdale was sublet to Messrs. Finnegan & 
Sullivan, who broke ground about one thousand feet south 
from the Centerdale station. May 7th, 1872. 

Work was pushed rapidly along, and the following year 
the road was opened for public travel. The first pas- 
senger train to pass through Centerdale was upon the 
morning of August nth, 1873, at 8 o'clock. 

The first time-table called for only two round trips each 
day, the first train leaving Centerdale for Providence at 
8 o'clock in the morning, and on its return arriving here 
a few minutes before 10. The second trip was made in 
the afternoon, leaving Centerdale about i :2o, and arriving 
here upon the return trip from Providence about 4:30 

After a short time another train was added, leaving 
Centerdale at 6:15 A. ]M., and arriving at Centerdale on 
its return trip at 6:40 P. M. The running time was about 


twenty-six minutes. The fare was twenty cents to Provi- 
dence. One freight train was also run, making one round 
trip daily. 

As the population increased the need of better facilities 
for travel began 'to be called for. 

The stage-coach and omnibus had long been relegated. 
The steam cars, which for a time appeared to furnish 
ample accommodation, now seemed to satisfy only those 
who lived within easy walking distance of the station. 

A line of horse cars by way of Smith street now appeared 
to be the only resource, and a project to establish a line 
was proposed by Hon. Ira Olney, of Fruit Hill, who at 
that time was serving as senator from North Providence 
to the General Assembly. 

At first the project was ridiculed by many as far in 
advance of the recjuirements of the limited travel to be 
accommodated along Smith street, which was not deemed 
sufficient to warrant a financial success. 

The proposition finally attracted a few adherents, and 
in the early fall of 1890 notices were posted inviting all 
interested to meet at the town hall in Centerdale to consider 
the question. 

The result of the meeting was that Hon. Ira Olney was 
instructed to obtain a charter incorporating a company to 
build and operate a line of horse cars from Centerdale to 
Providence, via Smith street. The act was passed by the 
senate, but the legislature adjourned before action was 
taken upon it in the house of representatives. 

In the meantime the introduction of electricity as a 
motive power for propelling cars was making rapid pro- 
gress, and some of the lines around Providence were 
being equipped with the new motive power, and it was 


apparent to many that horse cars would soon go the way 
of the stage-coach and omnibus. The presence of this 
transition period caused some delay in further action until 
October 12th, 1891, when a meeting was held to take into 
further consideration the question of transportation facili- 
ties. At this meeting a committee of five was appointed, 
consisting of Frank C. Angell, Walter W. Whipple, James 
C. Collins, Stephen A. Kelly, and Thomas W. Angell, to 
confer with the Union Railroad Company and ascertain 
upon what terms they would l)uild and operate the much 
desired line. 

The result of the committee's efforts was that the Union 
Railroad Company agreed to construct and operate the 
line as soon as the town would put the street in suitable 
condition to lay rails upon it, and they also agreed to con- 
struct and operate a line upon Woonascjuatucket avenue 
and Douglas avenue within a certain time named in the 
agreement, provided the town of North Providence would 
grant to the company the exclusive franchise of the streets 
for twenty years. 

This the town readily agreed to do, and the companv 
commenced the work of construction upon Smith street 
during the spring of 1893. 

The work was pushed rapidly along during the summer, 
and about 6 o'clock upon the evening of November nth, 
1893, the first electric car arrived in Centerdale. This 
was considered a trial trip, and brought the officers of the 
road and a few invited friends. 

After completing many details, the line was opened for 
public travel, upon a forty-minute schedule, Sundav morn- 
ing, November 19th, 1893. 

After about two years a thirty-minute schedule was run 


which continued until 1902, when cars were run every 
twenty minutes until a fiftccn-minutc schedule was run in 

During the summer of 1895 the Union Railroad Com- 
pany (now known as the Rhode Island Company) com- 
menced laying rails upon Woonasquatucket river avenue 
from the junction of Smith street at Centerdale, and con- 
necting with the rails of the JManton avenue line at 
Manton, where the rails continued on to Providence; 
and June ist, 1896, the first regular car was run over the 
street upon a forty-minute schedule, continuing until 
December, 1904, when cars were run every thirty minutes. 

The opening of the line of electrics upon Smith street 
to Centerdale in 1893 led many of the people of Providence, 
who had never journeyed u[) tlic beautiful Woonasqua- 
tucket valley, to do so, and thousands availed themselves 
of the opportunity, to ride over the new line and view the 
beautiful scenery. 

In reviewing the progress made in transportation 
throughout this section it is interesting to note the re- 
markable progress made in the moving of freight as well 
as the rapid and comfortable means of traveling from 
one distant place to another. 

A little more than four score years ago, there were only 
the old colonial roads, hardly suitable for the passage of 
vehicles other than farm wagons. 

The turnpike roads which supplanted the colonial roads 
have come and gone. The roads constructed and main- 
tained by the towns are fast giving way to the perfected 
State roads. 

The stage-coach has come and gone, the horse cars have 
been supplanted by the swift-moving electrics, and the 


ponderous locomotive, moving heavily loaded freight 
trains, has lightened the burdens of the faithful horse. 

Remarkable as has been this transition, it has all taken 
place within the recollection of men now living. 

The Cotton Mill. 

THE successful spinning of cotton by water-power in 
America by Samuel Slater, in 1791, encouraged men 
of means to secure many of the available sites where suffi- 
cient water-power could be obtained and erect mills for the 
spinning of cotton. Up to this time cotton was picked, 
spun, and woven by hand in America, although spinning 
by water-power was introduced in England several years 
previous to its introduction in America; for England was 
very jealous of the industry, and forbade any person, 
under pain of forfeiture, to carry or send from the United 
Kingdom models, patterns, or machinery used in the 
process of manufacturing cotton yarn. But at the close 
of the War of the Revolution the colonist took a different 
view of the c|ucstion, and bounties were offered to persons 
who would come to this country and construct machinery 
for the manufacture of cotton yarn. 

It was to secure this bounty that young Samuel Slater 
came to this country. 

It was several years after this l)eforc the power loom 
was introduced, or about the year 1814, l3ut it was not 
in successful operation until 1816. 

William Gilmore explained the Scotch loom to Judge 
Lyman, of North Providence, who caused one to l^e made 
under the direction of Mr. Gilmore. After a few diffi- 
culties w^ere overcome the loom was in successful operation 
in the mills at Eymansville, North Providence. 


The Woonasquatucket river offered many available sites 
for water-power, and the country around Centerdale was 
a convenient distance from Providence, where the supply 
of cotton could be had and also a ready market secured 
for the product of the mill. The Powder-lNIill turnpike 
was already being constructed, and would provide ample 
highway facilities, and these conditions offered sufficient 
inducements for Jonathan Congdon to purchase, in 1810, 
the saw and grist-mill privilege, together with the dam 
and pond, and also the land where the Centerdale Worsted 
Mills now stand. 

Congdon, either for the want of capital or lack of 
knowledge of cotton spinning, failed to improve the prop- 
erty, and sold the same to Israel Arnold, March 8, 181 2. 

Soon after Arnold purchased the property he proceeded 
to improve it, and erected a cotton-spinning mill. The 
mill was built of wood and was of small dimensions, 
18 X 57 feet, two stories high. A few years later, after the 
success of the power loom was assured, a small addition 
was built of stone, 25 x 45 feet, and the original mill was 
used to accommodate about a dozen looms. 

To provide homes for the employees necessitated the 
building of four two-tenement cottages which were ar- 
ranged in a row near the line of the street leading from 
the mill in a southerly direction. These houses were, in 
1892, moved to Waterman avenue. 

The little mill with the four or five houses now gave the 
place the appearance of a busy little village, and was des- 
tined soon to be christened with a name. 

After the mill was set in operation Arnold gave the 
name of Centre to the place. The name seemed a very 
appropriate designation for the little village, it being about 


four miles from Greenville on the nortli, four miles from 
Pawtucket on the east, four miles from Providence on the 
south, and seven miles from Scituate on the west. The 
business was conducted under the name of The Centre 
Cotton Manufacturing Company. 

The country around Centre soon began to feel the 
impetus given to it by the new industry, which invited 
other industries to locate here. Soon a store was started, 
followed by a blacksmith and wheelwright shop, and 
other enterprises which will be spoken of later. 

The village continued to be known by the name of 
Centre until about 1830, when mill was appended to the 
name, and for many years it was called Centremill, and 
by some, Centrevillc, until the United States Government 
established a post-office here in 1849, when the name was 
changed to Center Dale, that the mails might not confuse 
the mails going to an office previously established at 
Centerville, in the town of Warwick, R. L The name 
continued to be spelled with the capital D to the last 
syllable until about 1870, when the post-office depart- 
ment ordered that the name of the office be spelled as 
one word, Centerdale, and since that time it has remained 

Just what degree of success Israel Arnold had in the 
manufacture of cotton cloth is not known; but it is but 
fair to presume that he was rewarded with reasonable 
success considering the early stages of the industry in this 
country at that time. 

But whatever his success may have been, great credit 
should be given him for his courage and energy in estab- 
lishing a new industrv in a new countrv. 


He continued to operate the mill until 1823, when he 
sold one-half of his interest to Richard Anthony, who was 
already operating a mill at Greystone. 

In 1826, Israel Arnold, et al, sold his remaining in- 
terest to James Anthony, a son of Richard, the mill be- 
ing run under the firm name of Richard Anthony & wSon. 

After the Anthonys bought the mill they made many 
improvements. An addition, 40 x 80 feet, was built. The 
wooden weave room was moved across the street and made 
into a four-tenement house, where it is still in use, and is 
the building numbered 10, 11, 12, 13. 

The capacity of the mill now was about fifty looms, and 
their product always found a ready market in New York 
and Philadelphia. 

The Anthonys were very progressive men, and took 
active part in advancing the local interest of the com- 

They built and established the first store, and were 
prominently connected with the building of the first 
church, and other village improvements, accounts of 
which will be given in another chapter. 

Their business was very prosperous until the death of 
James Anthony, the junior member of the company, who 
possessed a good business capacity and was much relied 
upon in the administration of the aftairs by his father in 
his advancing years. 

The death of James Anthony and the declining health 
of Richard Anthony, who died in 1840, prompted the 
latter to retire from business, and in 1838 he sold the 
mill to Joseph Cunlift", who continued to operate the mill 
with the average success of small mills of that day. 



On the night of ^Nlarch 17, 1850, fire was discovered in 
one part of the mill, and soon the whole structure was 
in flames. There being no engine or fire apparatus at 
hand, the whole village was in great danger from the fire, 
and an alarm was carried to Providence by a man on 
horseback, and after considerable delay a hand engine 
with firemen to man it was dispatched to Centerdale, but 
it arrived too late to save the mill from total destruction ; 
but the firemen lent valuable assistance in saving the 
village from being destroyed. 

The destruction of the mill w^as a severe blow to the 
community, and many feared that the mill would not soon 
be rebuilt, and that the little village would consequently 
be allowed to fall into decay. 

But the water privilege was not destined to remain 
long; idle. 

C'kntkrdale Mill in 1S75 

In 1853 Mr. Cunliff rebuilt the mill, and October 29, 
1853, leased it to Zebulon Whipple; but before it was set 


in operation Whipple subleased it to John D. Burgess, 
September 12, 1854, for the manufacture of cotton cloth. 

Mr. Burgess continued to operate the mill until the 
property was sold in 1859 by Joseph Cunliff et al, to 
Amos N. Beckwith, who at that time was running a 
mill at Dyervillc. At the May session of the General 
Assembly, i860, the business of the Beckwiths was in- 
corporated under the name of The Dyerville Manufact- 
uring Company, with Amos N. Beckwith and Truman 
Beckwith as incorporators. 

Under the management of the Beckwith's many im- 
provements were made to the property. A new dam was 
constructed, an addition built to the mill, and a Corliss 
steam engine was installed to assist the old wooden-breast 
water-wheel, which was quite ready at that time to give 
way to the modern turbine wheel which was set in 1876, 
under the direct supervision of Thomas Wilmarth, who 
was at that time superintendent and general manager 
of the Dyerville Co.; and while under his management 
the production of the mill was increased to a considerable 

In 1888 the looms were removed and machinery in- 
stalled for making warps and filling for the mill at Dyer- 
ville, where all of the weaving was to be done. 

About noontime, August 7th, 1889, fire again broke out 
in the upper story of the mill ; but by the aid of a detach- 
ment of the Providence fire department, which responded 
to a call for aid, the mill was saved from destruction, but 
was damaged to a considerable extent. 

Business prospects not being very encouraging, the 
company decided to make a few temporary repairs to the 



mill, and wait for a more favorable time before again 
setting the machinery in operation. 

In January, 1891, the property was sold to Henry H. 
Green, and at tlie ]May session of the General Assembly, 
1891, an act was passed incorporating the Centerdale 
Worsted Mill, with Henry H. Green, John C. Baldwin, 
and William Dracup, as the incorporators. 

New and improved machinery was installed for the 
manufacture of worsted yarn. 

Thus closed, after nearly eighty years of existence, the 
first epoch of the cotton industry in this place. 

Cekte-RDALE Mill in iqoq. 

The Centerdale worsted mills under the management 
of Messrs. Green, Baldwin, and Dracup did not continue 
the business long; Messrs. Green and Baldwin witli- 
drawing from the company in September, 1891, selling 
their shares to James Lister, Jr., and William ^Nlackie, 
who reorganized the company, electing William Mackie, 



president; James Lister, Jr., treasurer; and A\'illiam 
Dracup, secretary. 

Under the new organization the village quickly assumed 
a new appearance, extensive repairs were made to all of 
tlie houses, a large addition was added to the mill, and 
the little cotton factory of a few years before was trans- 
formed into a large and well-equipped worsted mill. 

New machinery was brought from England suitable for 
spinning the finest grades of worsted yarns used princi- 
pally in the manufacture of cloth for men's wear and 
dress goods. 

The mill has been increased to about three times its 
former size since it came into the possession of the present 
owners, and gives employment to about 300 in its different 

River Scene Near Centerdale Mill. 



IT is much regretted that no record can be found to 
estabhsh the time when interest was first awakened in 
the cause of education in this vicinity; but from that which 
can be gathered from sources at all reliable, the time may 
be fixed as having been between the years 1802 and 1805. 

Previous to that time there was no pressing need of 
school facilities here, as the population hardly exceeded 
half a dozen families within a radius of one mile, and there 
was already a school at Fruit Hill, about one mile away; 
and a school not more than two miles away was not 
considered distant in those days. 

But during the time intervening between the year 1800 
and 1 8 10 the spinning of cotton by water-power was 
attracting considerable attention, and parties were negotia- 
ting for the old saw-mill privilege, together with the land 
adjoining, for the ])urpose of erecting a spinning mill, 
which necessarily would cause many new families to 
locate here; and it Avas also evident that with the increase 
of population which the new industr}- would call together, 
better school facilities would be needed. 

There were no public schools established by law in 
Rhode Island at that time, as Rhode Island was con- 
siderably behind some of her sister States in establishing 
free schools. Although attempts were made in the colony 
as early as 1663 to establish free schools for ''poor chil- 
dren,''^ and in after years by several towms, none seem to 
have met with success. 


in 1789 The Providence Association of Mechanics and 
Manufacturers was formed, and during the transaction 
of the business of the association tlie members soon dis- 
covered their deficiencies in education. 

Important papers were to be drawn up and various 
kinds of technical documents prepared sucli as but few 
were competent to execute; and it did not take the mem- 
bers long to decide that their children should have better 
advantages for obtaining an education than they them- 
selves had. The association began to agitate the question 
of better school facilities, and kept up the agitation until 
1799, when they decided to petition to the General Assem- 
bly, which was then in session, to establish free schools 
throughout the State. 

John Rowland was a member of the Mechanics Asso- 
ciation and was foremost in advocating the measure, most 
of the labor of pushing along the movement falling upon 
him. And to his untiring energy and persistent efforts 
the final triumph of free education throughout the State 
is due, and he may be justly called the founder of free 
public schools in Rhode Island. 

A memorial or petition was prepared by Mr. Rowland, 
and under the name of The Providence Mechanics Asso- 
ciation he presented the same to the General Assembly at 
the February session, 1799, praying them to enact such 
laws as would establish a system of free schools throughout 
the State. 

The memorial was strongly opposed by some of the 
members, and, strange as it may appear, the strongest 
opponents to the law were the delegates from the poorer 
towns, which really were to receive the most benefit. 


The subject \¥as finally referred by the General Assem- 
bly to a committee, which reported, in June, 1799, a bill 
that was ordered to ])e printed and to be distributed to 
the several to^Yns for inspection. 

At the October session the 1)ill was taken up, and after 
much discussion was passed by the house of representa- 
tives. It was then sent to the senate, which postponed 
acting upon it until the session held in February, 1800, 
when it passed without much o})position and became a law. 
Thus was achieved the first great triumph in the cause of 
education in Rhode Island. 

As already stated, the law was strongly opposed by many 
of the country towns that were most to be benefited, in 
consequence of whicli little effort was made by these 
towns to enforce it. Because of this non-enforcement the 
law soon became unpopular, and w^as repealed in 1803. 

Efforts were made several times, after the repeal of the 
law, to revive the movement, and each time the interest 
of John Rowland could be seen endeavoring to firmly 
establish the cherished object of his life, the system of 
free public schools throughout the entire State. 

The winter session of the General Assembly, 1828, 
proved a triumph for the friends of education. After a 
long and severe struggle, "An act to establish pul^lic 
schools throughout the State" was passed. Up to this 
time this part of the town enjoyed only such school 
facilities as could be obtained through the generosity of 
those who interested themselves in the cause. 

It was a common custom for the people of a community 
interested in education, and having sufiicient means, to 
build a schoolhouse at their own expense for the accommo- 
dation of the neitihljorhood, and charfie a nominal rent 



to some teacher for the use of it. In some cases a teacher 
would be em})loyed at a salar}' which was deemed sufficient 
at the time. 

A small tuition fee was collected from each pupil attend- 
ing, to pay the salary of the teacher, which was in most 
cases from one dollar and a half to two dollars and a half 
per week. Not many of the old-time teachers, however, 
were paid as high as two dollars and a half per week. 
This h'vAi fio:ure seldom or never was reached without a 

Of course his board would be included, the teacher 
boarding around the neighborhood a week or two with 
each family; and without doubt the experiences of some 
teachers boarding around the country would furnish 
amusing and interesting reading. 

The First School House — 1802-5. 


Some time l)etwecn 1802 and 1805 Nathaniel Angell, 
Olney Angell, Benjamin Whipple, and Roger Olney, by 
mutual agreement, formed themselves into a kind of a 
company with the object of promoting the general welfare 
of the community, and to provide better facilities for 
attending school. They caused to be built at their own 
expense the first schoolhouse ever built in Centerdale. 
This was about the year 1802, possibly a year or two 

This schoolhouse was built u})()n land belonging to 
Nathaniel Angell, near the southerly corner of Smith and 
Steere streets, but stood facing the old road, as Smith 
street at that time had not been constructed. (See map 
of old road.) 

Like most country schoolhouses of those days it was a 
small one-story building, 20 x 25 feet, with an ell, upon the 
end facing the road, 8 x 10 feet, for the entry; the boys 
and girls using the same door and entry. The end of the 
building was surmounted with a belfry and bell, whicli in 
those days was no common luxury for a country school- 

The interior was arranged with a broad aisle through 
the center of the room, the floor being built on an incline, 
slanting from the sides of the room towards the center 
aisle, the desks being arranged lengthwise of the room 
upon the incline floor facing the center aisle, and the 
teacher's desk was upon a high platform at the rear end 
of the room. 

It would l)e interesting to know the name of tlie first 
or any of the early teachers, but unfortunately no record 
of them has been preserved, nor is there any one now liv- 
ing who can supply any of their names earlier than 1824. 


The only names I have been al^le to learn of those who 
taught in the old schoolhouse are Miss Ruth Richardson, 

who tauglit in 1824; Stephen Angell, in 1833, 1834, and 

1835- ' • ' 

A Miss Briggs taught from August i, 1836, to November 
I, Avhen she was succeeded by John Colwell, November 
21 of the same year, Mr. Colwell receiving twenty-three 
dollars per month salary. Mr. Colwell was succeeded, 
June 26, 1837, by Rebecca Steere, at a salary of three 
dollars per week; these figures being found in a memo- 
randum made in an old account book of James Angell, 
who was trustee of the school at that time. After Miss 
Steere came Jenks INIowry, Frank Anthony, and William 
W. Wright, in the order named; Mr. Wright being the 
last to teach in the old schoolhouse before the building 
was abandoned for school purposes, in 1848. 

In 1823 the land where the schoolhouse stood was sold 
to James Angell who, in 1828, sold it to Asa Steere, who 
desired to build a dwelling-house thereon, and the school- 
house was moved across Smith street, nearly opposite its 
first location. 

Here it remained until it became inadequate to meet the 
requirements of the increasing population, and in 1848 it 
was abandoned for school purposes, a new schoolhouse 
having been built. 

In the summer of 1846 a meeting of the taxpayers of 
the school district was called, and it was voted to assess a 
tax upon the ratable property of the district sufficient to 
purchase a suitable lot and erect thereon a new school- 

A piece of land was purchased at the corner of Smith 
street and Angell avenue (the site of the present school- 


house), and a committee was a|)])ointed to proceed and 
build a house after designs furnished by Thomas Tefft, 
an architect, whose skill as an architect of school buildinsfs 
stood very hidi at the time. 

The Second School House, Erected 1848. 

In due time a beautiful two-room house was erected, 
which at the time was considered one of the model school- 
houses of the State. 

In November, 1848, schools were opened in the new 
house, Mr. Henry A. Cook having charge of the grammar 
department and Almeda Hartwell of the primary school. 

Under their careful direction, and that of their suc- 
cessors, the standard of the Centerdale schools stood very 
high throughout the northern part of the State. 

Soon after the State adopted the free school system, in 
1828, the town was divided into school districts, each 
district having full control of its school affairs, with the 
right to assess a tax upon all ratable property of the 
district to provide funds to erect school homes, and repair 


the same, and to defray the expenses incidental to the 
conduct of the schools. 

The district around Centerdale was known as school 
district number five, and included the villages of Gray- 
stone, Centerdale, and Allendale as far as Emanuel street, 
and extended in the direction of Fruit Hill to Sunset 
avenue, and extended in an easterly direction to the 
Smithfield road. 

The business pertaining to school affairs was placed in 
charge of one or more trustees, who were elected annually 
by the legal voters of the district. 

It was sometimes the case in some districts that in- 
competent men were elected as trustees, whose only ol^ject 
seemed to be to install some friend or relative as teacher 
in the school, regardless of the person's cjualification or the 
wishes of the people. 

Occasionally some little neighborhood broil outside of 
the school, either in politics, or trade would enter into the 
election, and the result would be that the ofiice would be 
filled by a person wholly unfit for the position, and the 
schools would suffer in consequence. 

But this was not always the case, for some communities 
were fortunate to secure trustees who had the interest of 
the schools at heart, and in such cases trustees, teachers, 
and scholars would work in harmony together, and good 
results would be obtained ; and it might be truthfully said 
that district number five was generally fortunate in secur- 
ing competent men for trustees to manage the school 

But whatever the deficiencies of the district system may 
have been, it served its purpose in the early days of free 


schools; but as the system of free schools developed with 
the increasing population, and the greater demands made 
by the ever-changing condition of affairs, it became evi- 
dent that the district system, which had answered well its 
purpose in the early days, had now become inadequate, 
and some change in the management of the schools was 
necessary to attain the best results. 

At the January session of the General Asseml^ly, 1884, 
an act was passed authorizing the towns in town meeting 
to abolish the school district system and transfer all of 
the school property into the hands of the town and place 
the entire management and care of all public school in- 
terests in a town school committee. The law was not 
made compulsory, but left it optional with the towns to 
adopt the town system or not; but in 1903 the law was 
amended, to go into effect January i, 1904, abolishing the 
district system and requiring every town throughout the 
State to proceed and organize under the new law; as 
nearly every town had already adopted it, it was thought 
best to make the system uniform throughout the State. 

North Providence was the first town in the State to 
adopt the new law, at a town meeting held June ist, 1885, 
and an immediate improvement in the school Ijuildings 
and the general management of the school affairs was 

The first superintendent of schools under the town 
management was William W. Wright, who labored dili- 
gently and faitlifully to effect the change from the o])S()lete 
district system to the town management. 

Mr. Wright served as superintendent until 1887, when 
he was succeeded by George W. Gould, who served one 
year, when he was succeeded by James C. Collins, who 



served from 1888 until 1897, when he was succeeded by 
the foUowin-: Henry R. Hill, from 1897 to 1901 ; George 
M Hall, from 1901 to 1905; Arthur Gushing, from 1905 
to 1907, when Thomas P. Bassett was chosen superm- 

Soon after the town assumed the management of the 
schools, it became evident that the school attendance had 
acrain outgrown the capacity of the house which was 

once the pride of the village, and that a new and more 

commodious house must soon be provided. 

At a town meeting held June 27, 1885, an appropriation 

of $4,000.00 was made to provide better school facilities 

for the Genterdale district. 

Messrs. James G. Gollins, Preston L. Belden, Henry 

R Hill, Herbert L. Eddy, Martin W. Thurber, and 

Benjamin Sweet were appointed a building committee. 

Thikd, or Present School House. 


The result of the committee's labors was that a new 
three-room schoolhouse of modern design was erected 
from plans furnished by William R. Walker, architect. 

The work of construction was under the direction of 
Benjamin Sweet, contractor, who commenced work dur- 
ing the summer of 1885, and the building was completed 
during the following winter, and was formally dedicated, 
February 2 2d, 1886, with appropriate exercises. 

A large gathering of the people of the town, with the 
friends of education from adjoining towns, was present. 

The dedicatory exercises wTre conducted by the chair- 
man of the building committee, Hon. James C. Collins, 
and addresses were made by Hon. Thomas B. Stockwell, 
Commissioner of Public Schools of Rhode Island, Rev. 
y. E. Tomlinson of \'alley Falls, and Thomas J. ^^lorgan, 
principal of the State Normal School. 

Many congratulations were extended to the residents 
of the village for the beautiful building which they that 
day had dedicated to the cause of education. The buikl- 
ing contained three rooms, for grammar, intermediate, and 
primary departments. 

Other rooms have been added from time to time as 
needed, until now the house contains six rooms with 
modern furnishings, including a steam heating plant. 

The schoolhouse occupies an elevated and commanding 
site, and is surrounded by trees of many years' growth, 
making the surroundings attractive to a person entering 
the village. 



And he said unto them, Go into all the world, and prearh the gospel to 
every creature. St. M.^rk xvi, 15. 

IN 1830 the village of Ccnterdale had grown to be a 
busy little community. The mill had been enlarged 
to more than double its former size, several houses had 
been built, an old-time variety store established, a wheel- 
wright and blacksmith shop started, and also a tavern had 
been established; for in those days a country village would 
hardly be complete without its village tavern. 

Previous to 1832 the village contained no Ijuilding 
consecrated to God for holding divine services; but 
religious services were occasionally held in the school- 
house, and an occasional prayer-meeting at the home of 
some of the residents. 

There was as early as 1816 a Baptist churcli at Fruit 
Hill, alx)ut one mile away, where those who were inclined 
could attend. 

About 1830 the people desired a more convenient place 
for holding divine service than the schoolhouse afforded, 
and with the influence and help of the Anthonys, who had 
purchased the cotton mill, and the co-operation of the 
resident people, a substantial sum was secured as a fund 
to build a Free Will Baptist meeting-house. 

The results of their efforts were that a stone edifice 
37 X 56 feet was erected upon land secured from James 
Angell, upon the west side of Smith street, opposite the 
junction of Mineral Spring avenue. 



The meeting-house, as it was called, was a substantial 
stone building, surmounted by a square belfry on the end 

fronting the street. 

The Baptist Mkkiing liou 

Akmijky Hall.) 

In 1835 a subscription paper was circulated to oljtain 
a sufficient amount to purchase a bell. The original 
paper is still preserved, and a copy is here given with the 
names and amounts subscribed: 

"We the subscribers being desirous to procure a bell for the Center 
Village Meeting House agree to pay the sum affixed to our respective 
names to be applied to that purpose. 

" Nortli Providence July 17 1835 



Halsey Sweet land 
Samuel Sweet 
Waterman Sweet 
Timothy Colwell 
James Corey 
John W. Colwell 
William Mathewson . 
William A. Colwell . 
Royal Waterman 
Fenner Brown 
E. M. Sears . . . 
L. Ross .... 
Ebben Scott . 
George Cummings . 
Dexter Edwards 
George Waterman . 
John G. Needham . 
Stephen Angell . 
Nathaniel Angell 
Ambross Eddy . 

2 50 Adam Lawrence 

I 00 Martin Wheeler 

I 00 Brown W. Sweet 

] 00 Jenks Smith 

I 00 Elias Hutchins . 

1 00 John Hutchinson . 

I CO A. Sawyer 

I 00 Ephraim Whip])le . 

1 00 John E. Smith . 

2 00 James Anthony 
I 00 James Angell 

50 Asa Steere . 

] 00 Luther Carpenter . 

1 00 E])hraim Hawkins . 

50 William Woodwcn-th 

1 00 Richard Briggs . 

2 00 Edwin Capron . 

1 00 Obadiah Olney 

2 00 Welcome Earnum . 
I 00 Daniel Earnum 

I 00 

I 00 

3 00 

1 00 

2 50 

I 00 

I 00 

I 00 

15 00 

10 00 

5 00 

5 00 

5 00 
7 00 

6 00 
6 00 
1 00 
I 00 


Ninety-eight dollars was obtained to buy the bell, and 
a fine, deep-toned, Spanish bell was secured. 

A short time previous there was some religious trouble 
in Spain, and many of the bells upon the churches and 
convents were removed and transported out of the country 
to prevent their being confiscated or from falling into the 
hands of the opposing party. 

Some of the bells were shipped to New York and Boston, 
and eventually one of them poised in the belfry of the 
Centerdale meeting-house. 

This bell was made of Spanish bell metal and weighed 
about 600 pounds, and was inscribed as was the custom 


in those days; unfortunately no record was made of the 
words of the inscription before it was destroyed by fire 
in 1892, which also destroyed the buikhni^ and its contents. 
including all of the church records, an account of which 
will be tjjiven later. 

At the time of the fire spoken of, all the records of the 
early history of the church were destroyed; so it is im- 
possible to tell the date when this, the first church, was 
dedicated, except that it was in the autumn of 1832. 

Rev. Elias Hutchins, Rev. Gilbert Whittemore, and 
Rev. Maxcy Burlingame were among the early preachers 
in the new meeting-house; but which of the three was the 
first to officiate is unknown; but certain indications point 
to Rev. Elias Hutchins as being the first. 

How interesting it would be if a full and complete report 
of the first service held here, the name of the first officiating 
clergyman, the address that was made, the psalms and 
hymns that were sung and the attending incidents of that 
most interesting occasion; what a satisfaction it would 
be if a picture of that first gathering, such as the modern 
triumph of the art of photography could give of a like 
scene to-day, could be produced. 

The interior of the house was not unlike other meeting- 
houses built in those days, and consisted of one large 
audience room, 17 feet in height, lighted by six large 
windows, 5x9 feet in size ; across the end was the gallery, 
always to be found in those old-time meeting-houses, to 
accommodate the village choir. 

The pulpit, which stood at one end, was of enormous 
size; the top of the reading-desk being fully nine feet 
above the floor. The pews were like stalls, or boxes, 
with doors to close and button the sides being so high 


that only the heads of the congregation could be seen; 
while a boy a dozen years old could scarcely see over the 
tops of them. 

The Baptist society continued to hold services in their 
''new meeting-house" until about 1845, when religious 
services under the direction of the Free Will Baptist 
denomination were discontinued. 

At the annual convention of the Protestant Episcopal 
Church of Rhode Island, held in 1839, a canon was 
adopted, establishing a board of missions for the purpose 
of propagating and establishing missions in such parts 
of the State that had never been blessed with the privi- 
leges of worshiping God in the true church, as understood 
by the adherents of the Episcopal Church. 

Committees were appointed to explore the northern and 
western portions of the State with special reference to this 
subject. They found some towns entirely destitute of a 
regular place for divine worship of any kind within their 
limits. Here was good missionary ground to work in, 
and the church was not slow to grasp the opportunity. 

Missions were established in Burrillvillc, Johnston, 
Smithficld, Cumberland, North Providence, and other 
towns throughout the State. 

Where meeting-houses of other denominations could 
not be had for holding services, halls were secured; and 
in the absence of both, services were held in the open air. 

During the years 1844 and 1845 occasional services 
were held in Centerdale in the Baptist meeting-house, 
which was loaned for the occasion to Rev. James C. Rich- 
mond, missionary; the services were but occasional, their 
object being to sow the seed and patiently wait and watch 
for it to take root in the virgin soil and bring forth fruit; 


and if the harvest was sufficient, to estabhsh a mission 
station, in the hope that, with God's blessing, it might 
develop into a church to the glory of God. 

As before stated, these meetings were but occasional. 
Until 1847 Rev. James H. Eames, w^ho was at that time 
rector of wSt. Stephen's Church, Providence, interested 
himself in the missionary work in this direction, and, 
foreseeing the abundant harvest that might be secured, 
entered the field and held regular services in Centerdale 
once each Sunday. 

He immediately entered into negotiation for the purchase 
of the Baptist meeting-house, and in 1848 he obtained a 
loan of $50.00 from the Convocation Missionary Fund 
to secure the stone church at Center Mill (as it was called), 
he receiving assurance that a sufficient amount could be 
raised, from those interested, to pay the balance due on 
the church. 

Interest now increased rapidly in the work, under the 
guiding hand of that very devout and gifted servant of 
God, Rev. James H. Eames, who labored earnestly to 
establish the church to which he had given his life labors. 

The interior of the building was altered to accommodate 
the services of the Episcopal Church. The high pulpit 
used by the Baptists was removed, a chancel and sacristy 
erected, and other improvements made, and ere long the 
mission was in a flourishing condition. 

On account of the arduous duties at St. Stephen's 
Church, Mr. Eames was compelled to relinquish tem- 
porarily his work in this place. Rev. Josiah Phelps offici- 
ating as missionary for several months, when he returned 
to his home in Indiana. 


In March, 1849, Rev. James H. Carpenter was ap- 
pointed missionary to this station. The following extract 
taken from his annual report to the convention held in 
Providence, June 12 and 13, 1849, will give an idea of the 
condition of affairs at that time. 

. . . "At Center Mill are the regular morning and 
evening services on Sunday, and a congregation not large, 
but increasing, and evincing some encouraging signs of 
interest. The Sunday-school, which a few weeks ago 
consisted of scarcely 20 members, now numbers 50, in- 
cluding 9 teachers. The choir have reorganized and 
resumed their appropriate services in public worship. A 
substantial and commodious stone edifice for the worship 
of God, capable of seating 300 or 400 persons, is already 
erected. A majority of the shares in this building were 
purchased by the church a year or two since, of its former 
owners and occupants, who were of the Baptist society. 
It is furnished with a good bell, and the proper church 
fixtures have been added. It now needs for the more 
complete worship of God in decency and in order a small 
organ, a communion service, a carpet, and a surplice. 
These things I hope the more able friends of missions and 
the church in our neighboring cities will not suft'er it 
long to want." . . . 

Mr. Carpenter continued to olficiate until Alarch, 1850; 
from that time until November, of the same year, the place 
was filled by INIr. Gray, a lay reader. 

About this time great interest was awakened in the 
home missionary work, and Rev. James Eames resigned 
his position as rector of St. Stephen's Church, Providence, 
to enter again the missionary field. 

He was assigned to three missions, one at Greenville, one 
at Valley Falls, and at Centerdale. He entered upon his 
work at Centerdale the second time in November, 1850. 


On account of the distance between the three stations, 
Mr. Eames was required to walk or drive loo miles every 
week in the discharge of his duties at the three stations. 

The work proved too much for him, and he ^^•as com- 
pelled to give up the Centerdale mission in November, 
1 85 1. Regular services on Sunday were discontinued for 
a short time, but the Sunday-school was continued and 
was well attended and did excellent work. Occasional 
services, however, were held the following year by Revs. 
Mr. Lumsden, Mr. Fairbairn, and ]\Ir. INIills, together 
with the general missionary, Mr. Eames. 

In 1853 Mr. Eames was granted a leave of absence by 
the convention and was away fourteen months, traveling 
through the countries of the east, principally Egypt and 
the Holy Land. 

During his absence Rev. Benjamin B. Babbitt, of INIassa- 
chusetts, was appointed missionary to fill his place at 
Centerdale, and regular services were again held. It was 
during the time of Mr. Babbitt's labors here that he 
conceived the idea of a mission at Olneyville, and with 
the consent of the board of missions entered upon his 
labors, the outcome of which was the establishing of the 
Church of the Messiah at Olneyville. 

Upon the return of Mr. Eames from his travels, in 
1855, he resumed the care of the mission. 

The church found many obstacles to overcome. The 
population was small, and largely inclined towards the 
Baptist faith; there being Baptist churches already es- 
tablished at xA-llendale, Graniteville, and Fruit Hill, all 
within a radius of one mile. And in consequence of the 
limited population and the existing circumstances, the 
board of missions decided to discontinue further efTorts 


to establish a church in this place at that time. The last 
services held here by ISlr. Eames was Christmas night, 

The discontinuance of the mission was much regretted 

by the faithful few who had labored to establish the 

church, but they bowed in humble submission to the 

inevitable, hoping and trusting that the seed sown by 

His faithful servants had fallen upon good ground, and 

when watered with the dew of His blessing would spring 

up and bring forth an abundant harvest in the near 


The meeting-house, as it never ceased to be called, 
remained closed for holding divine services until April 
29, 1863, when it was sold to James Halsey Angell, who 
removed the pews and other church fixtures and trans- 
formed it into an armory, or drill-hall, for the use of Com- 
pany A, First Regiment Rhode Island Militia, which was 
organized during the Civil war in accordance with a law 
pa'ssed by the General Assembly ordering the organizing 
of the State militia. The hall was named Armory Hall, 
and was ever afterwards known by that name until it was 
destroyed by fire, February 6, 1892. An account of the 
fire, published in one of the Providence newspapers, is 
here given, which also gives a brief account of the last 
few years of its existence: 

"About 2 o'clock Saturday morning, February 6, i8q2, hre was 
discovered issuing from the windows and roof of Armory Hall. The 
alarm was soon given, but before many minutes the whole building 
was enveloped in flames. Evidently the lire had been raging for 
some time before it was discovered, in order to have gained such 
headwav. In the absence of all fire apparatus nothing could be 
done to'save the building and the attention of the peoi^le was turned 


toward saving adjoining buildings, especially the Centerdale Hotel, 
which was literally covered with sparks and cinders, but was saved 
from destruction partiall}' bv the presence of about two inches of 
snow which covered the roof. The fire from the hall communicated 
with a small wooden structure used as a barber shop and occupied 
by H. E. Turner. Ey 4 o'clock both buildings were totally con- 
sumed. The origin of the fire is unknown. The hall was insured 
in the Pawtucket Mutual Insurance Co. for $2,000; the barber shop 
was uninsured and is a total loss. Both buildings belonged to the 
estate of the late J. H. Angell. The burning of Armory Hall removes 
an old and familiar landmark from the town, and will be regretted 
b}- man}- of the townsmen who were accustomed to assemble there 
upon ditlerent occasions. The hall was a stone structure 37 x 56 
feet and was erected in the year 1832 by the Free Will Baptist Society, 
who held services there about 13 years when services were discon- 
tinued, and in 1847 ^he house was sold to the Episcopal Society, who 
held services there until 1855, when services were again discontinued, 
which ended the building's career as a regular place of worship. In 
the year 1863 the property was sold to Mr. J. Halsey Angell, who 
transformed it into Armory Hall for the use of a military company 
which was organized here during the Civil war. At the close of the 
war the hall was remodeled into a public hall for general purposes. 
The order of Good Templars and the Temple of Honor occupied it 
from 187 1 to 1874. In 1886 it was again remodeled and a stage 
erected and a set of scenery added. In 1890 the Centerdale Athletic 
Club occupied it for a gymnasium, and continued to do so until it was 
destroyed by fire Saturday morning. The club lost all of their 
paraphernalia, upon which there was no insurance. The basement 
of the hall was occupied b}- the Young American Band as a band 
room; they losing about $150, in instruments and uniforms, etc. The 
loss of the old bell, which was allowed to occupy its accustomed place 
in the belfry, is much regretted by the public generally, as is mani- 
fested by the frequent calls for a small piece as a token in remem- 
brance of the many times it chimed forth its sweet and mekxlious 
notes, sometimes calling the people together to worship, and at other 
times calling forth in more stirring peals for men to assemble in 
defence of their country, or to battle with the fiery fiend which at 



this time had encircled its home and forced it to give up its life (as 
we might say), for its voice will be heard no more. But the faithful 
old servant gave a farewell stroke as it descended into the fiery 
cauldron below, which was distinctly heard by those present. The 
bell was cast in Spain upwards of one hundred years ago, and was 
considered of unusual fine and mellow tone." . . . 

The destruction of Armory Hall removed the only 
place where public gatherings or religious services could 
be held in the village; for the doors of Armory Hall 
were always opened free of any charge by Mr. Angell to 
any denomination who desired to hold divine service 
there. But as a rule the services were but occasional. 

Spring came, followed by summer, autumn, and winter, 
for more than two-score years before the beautiful services 
of the Episcopal Church were again exemplified in Cen- 
terdale. The seed sown by those early missionaries had 
long slumbered, but had now taken root, and in February, 
1897, the harvest time was at hand; and God in His 
infinite wisdom directed the footsteps of His faithful ser- 
vant. Rev. James W. Colwell, thither to gather the golden 
harvest. It would have been difficult to have found a 
man more especially qualified to undertake the arduous 
work than Mr. Colwell. He was a man of large ex- 
perience in the work in Christ's vineyard, of pleasing 
address and tireless energy, and he entered upon his 
work here with renewed ambition, feeling that he was to 
complete the work begun by his esteemed friend, Dr. 
Eames, so many years before. 

The people of the community during the long time the 
church had remained dormant had afliliated themselves 
with other denominations in adjoining villages, there 
bein^ less than half a dozen Episcopalians within the 



limits of the village; thus it will be seen that he had no 
easy task before him. He must first interest and educate 
the people in the faith and forms of the church. In this 
work he was especially gifted, and was ably assisted by 
his daughter, Miss Mary E. Colwell (now Mrs. B. M. 
Latham), who labored tirelessly for four years with her 
father, traveling through summer's sun and winter's snow 
upward of ten miles every Sunday to labor in the church 
she so much loved and to help establish St. Alban's mission. 

Rev. James W. Colwell. 

There being no hall in the village in which to hold ser- 
vices, a small room in a building on Waterman avenue was 
donated to the use of the mission by the Centerdale Wor- 
sted Co., and a generous friend of the church contributed 
suitable furnishings; and February 21, 1897, services were 


held there for the first time, Rev. James W. Colwell 
officiating, assisted by Arch-deacon Tucker. 

The attendance was very encouraging. The object of 
the meeting was explained by both the officiating clergy- 
men, who earnestly implored the blessings of God to 
descend upon the community and to encourage in the 
hearts of the people a desire to labor for the establishment 
of the church to the glory of God. They also told of the 
earnest efforts of Dr. Eames, who labored so faithfully in 
the endeavor to establish the church in Centerdale so 
many years ago. 

After the service Frank C. Angell announced that he 
had in his possession the communion service, bible, and 
prayer book used by Dr. Eames in his labors here forty 
years ago, and desired to present the same to the new 

The bible, prayer book, and communion service had 
been carefully cared for by Mr. Angell and his ancestors, 
as treasures too sacred to be put to common use ; and now, 
after nearly half a century had passed, he rejoiced that he 
had the pleasure of returning the treasures to the use to 
which they had been dedicated. 

The attendance increased at each service, and soon the 
room was far too small to hold all who came; but many 
were content to stand outside of the building and listen 
to the inspiring words of the earnest and faithful mis- 

The name of St. Alban's Mission was suggested by 
Mr. Colwell as a suitable name for the mission to be 
known by, and the congregation readily adopted the 
same; and the society has ever since been known by that 
name, in memory of the first Christian martyr in England. 


To afford an opportunity for the ladies to labor for the 
advancement of the work of the mission, The St. Elizabeth 
Guild was organized ; and to the persevering efforts of 
tliis little band of willing workers is largely due the credit 
of erecting the beautiful St. Alban's church, which now 
adorns the village. 

Interest in the work continued to increase, and April 22, 
1897, a meeting was called that a general interchange of 
opinions might be had as to the advisability of erecting a 
church. At a subsequent meeting committees were ap- 
pointed to solicit funds for that purpose. The generous 
donation of the Centerdale Worsted Company of one 
thousand dollars, and the gift of a beautiful building site, 
centrally located (wdiere the St. Alban's church no^^• 
stands), by Frank C. Angell, encouraged the giving of 
many liberal amounts, and the widow's mite received the 
same blessing of God as the larger amounts received. 

At a meeting held April 12th, 1899, the following 
resolution was passed: 

''Voted, That a committee of three be elected, to be 
known and called the building committee, with power 
and authority to proceed and erect or cause to be erected 
a suitable building or church edifice suitable for holding 
religious services according to the established custom and 
forms of the Episcopal Church." 

Frank C. Angell, William Dracup, and James W. Col- 
well were elected as the committee. 

Designs furnished by D. H. Thornton, architect, were 
accepted, and April 17, 1899, ground was broken for the 
foundation, which was placed by William A. Sweet. 
The contract for the l)uilding of the cliurch above the 



foundation was awarded to John A. Chase, contractor 
and builder. The work progressed rapidly, and June 22, 
1899, the corner-stone was laid in accordance with the 
usual forms of the Episcopal Church by Bishop Coadjutor 
William N. J\Ic\'ickar, assisted by a delegation of the 

St. Alban's Chukch. 

After the corner-stone was laid the building began to 
assume its beautiful proportions; the spire gradually 
ascending heavenward, surmounted and holding aloft the 
golden cross, the emblem of Christ, proclaiming to all the 
world that "all who believe and are baptized shall inherit 
eternal life." 


In due time the church was completed, and December 
19th, 1899, was delivered into the hands of the committee 
by the contractor. 

The work of placing the pews and furnishing the in- 
terior was rapidly pushed forward, and P\Ojruary 21st, 
1900, the third anniversary of the founding of the mission, 
the church was formally opened and dedicated to the 
worship of God by Right Rev. Bishop William N. Mc- 
Vickar, assisted l3y a delegation of the clergy. 

The mission was now firmly established in its new home, 
with an encouraging future before it. A small debt which 
was upon the church at the time it was dedicated was 
paid January i, 1906, and June 16, of the same year, it was 
formally consecrated by Bishop McVickar. The sermon 
was by Rev. George McC. Fiske, D. D., rector of St. 
Stephen's Church, Providence. 

The day was one long looked forward to with much 
interest by the members of the little parish, and would 
have been a day of unalloyed pleasure to all had not 
the vacant seat within the chancel rail told the sad story 
that the beloved rector (James W. Colwcll), who had 
labored so long and faithfully to establish St. Alban's 
Mission, had been called away to receive the reward of 
the faithful and hear the joyful tidings, "Well done, thou 
good and faithful servant, enter tliou into the joy of thy 

In November, 1905, Mr. Colwell was stricken ^^•ith 
paralysis at his home in Greenville. The news came as a 
heavy blow to his many friends, especially so to the mem- 
bers of the mission, who fully realized that this was but 
the beginning of the end. He never recovered sufficiently 
to resume his labors at St. Alban's. While visiting his 



daughter, at Mansfield, INIass., he was again stricken, 
immediately after asking divine blessing at the evening 
meal, and soon expired. His death occurred April 26th, 

During the time that INIr. Colwcll was unable to officiate 
at St. Alban's IMission the place was filled temporarily by 
Richard James and Henry Harman, lay readers, until 
March 25, 1906, when Rev. Alva E. Carpenter, rector 
of St. Peter's Church, Manton, assumed charge until 
October 7, when he was succeeded by Rev. Edmond C. 

Methodist Church. 

The Centerdale Methodist Church. 

During the summer of 1896 William H. Tilley, a local 
preacher of ]Mount Pleasant ]M. E. Church, assisted 1)y 


Mr. C. A. Lockwood, and others, held religious services 
in the open air in the village; the first one occurring 
July 12, i8q6. These open-air meetings were held regu- 
larly each })leasant Sunday until October 23, when the 
weather became too cold for out-of-door services; and as 
no hall was to be had, William H. Tilley, to further the 
work he had inaugurated, purchased a lot of land on 
George street near Smith street, and at once proceeded to 
erect a small church, doing much of the work himself. 
January 3, 1897, saw the church completed, and the 
first services were held within its walls at that time. 

The formal dedication of the little church occurred 
June 17, 1897; the presiding elder of the Providence 
district, Rev. INIr. E. C. Boss, ofiiciating; and great 
interest was manifested by the members, who worked 
earnestly and devotedly for its advancement. 

At a session of the Methodist Episcopal Conference, 
held a few months later, it was deemed unwise to organize 
a ]M. E. Church at Centerdale at this time. Whereupon 
the members of the new church voted unanimously to 
organize as an Independent Methodist Church. Mr. W. 
H. Tilley, who had acted as assistant pastor, was elected 
pastor, and June 27, 1901, was formally ordained to tht 
gospel ministry; and under his direction and his untiring 
energy and generosity the church still continues on with 
its good work. 

St. Lawrence Church. 

(Ronniii CatJioUc.) 

Until the summer of 1907 Centerdale was included in 
the parish of St. Thomas church, at Manton, aljout two 



miles distant, necessitating quite a long walk for those who 
desired to attend service, and many were unable to do so 
from some disability or the infirmities of old age. 

St. Lawrence Church. 

As the population increased the adherents of the 
Catholic Church increased accordingly, and eventually 
numlDcred about 400 communicants in and around Cen- 
terdalc. On account of the distance of St. Thomas church 
from Ccnterdale, and the size of the parish, a plea for a 
division of the parish was made to Rt. Rev. Bishop Har- 
kins, who, after carefully considering the question in all 
its bearings, decided that the best interest of the church 
could be served by a division of the parish and establishing 
a new church near Centerdale; believing that the people 
would be more conveniently accommodated and have a 
more home interest in the work than they would have in 
a place of worship more distantly removcck 


In compliance to his wishes and orders the parish was 
divided, the new one receiving the name of St. Lawrence 
parish, and Rev. Joseph Hardy was assigned to take 
charge of the same. Father Hardy was a young priest, 
and especially c|ualified to undertake the arduous task, 
and entered into the work with much energy and en- 
thusiasm, and soon awoke among his parishoners a lively 
interest in the church work. A room was secured in 
Allendale, where services were held temporarily, or until 
other arrangements could be made. 

The members of the new parish soon saw the urgent 
need of a larger and better place for holding divine services 
than the present room afforded and in a building suitably 
arranged and consecrated to His holy name. 

A suitable site for a new church was secured near 
Centerdale, on Woonasquatucket avenue, corner of George 
street, and June 17th, 1907, ground was broken for the 
foundation of the new edifice. The work of construction 
was now pushed rapidly forward by J. C. Walch & Co., 
contractors, from plans drawn by INIessrs. Fountaine & 
Kennicutt, architects. The size of the church is 45 x 
100 feet, with a spire 107 feet above the street. 

October 20, 1907, the corner-stone was laid with the 
impressive ceremony of the Catholic Church by Rt. Rev. 
Bishop Matthew Harkins, D. D., assisted by a large 
delegation of the clergy. The sermon was by Rev. 
Thomas C. O'Brien. The first service was held in the 
unfinished structure October 13, 1907, Rev. Joseph Hardy, 


The Village Tavern. 

IN ye olden times a country village without a tavern 
would be as devoid of life as a schoolhouse in vaca- 
tion time, and would offer little inducement for people to 
remain long within its limits. 

The taverns in those days were the center of the com- 
munity and a very important feature in the life of the town, 
socially and otherwise; they were the farmer's club-room, 
the village bureau of information, the main center for 
obtaining the news from abroad, as well as the village 
gossip. Newspapers were only occasionally seen, and a 
farmer who could afford a weekly or monthly paper was 
always a welcome guest at the gatherings around the 
open fire-place of the tavern room. There would be 
discussed the price of hay, corn, potatoes, wood, and 
other products of the farm; there was planned in the 
long winter evenings the work for the coming season, 
advice was sought and given in reference to everything 
of interest to the community; occasionally politics were 
reviewed and party campaigns planned. 

Aside from the home, there probably is no place to 
which the minds of our grandfathers would revert with 
more pleasing recollections than the evenings passed in 
the puIdHc room of the old-time tavern. 

Pleasant indeed must be the recollections of those early 
days; the swinging signs, the rattling stage-coaches, the 
stories and adventures related around the cheerful l)laze 


of the open fire-place, and the merry dances held at these 
taverns attended by the people from all the country 

The liotel of to-day has little in common with the tavern 
of one hundred, or even fifty years, ago. That close neigh- 
borly companionship formed around the hearth-stone of 
the tavern room has long since disappeared. 

It is not dift'icult to understand some of the causes that 
has brought al^out this change. The introduction of new 
industries, employing many transient people who do not 
remain long enough in any place to have anything in 
common with the old residents, or to take any interest 
in the welfare of the community; the rapid and con- 
venient ways of traveling to and from the neighboring 
cities for business and other purposes; the diffusion of 
the news from all parts of the world through the daily 
newspapers delivered at the doors of almost every home, 
together with the changes incident to the mode of living 
in modern times, are some of the chief causes of the de- 
cline of the old-time village tavern. 

To give a history of the old tavern, now called the 
Centerdale Hotel, without calling attention to its founder, 
James Angcll, would be like trying to tell the history of 
Rhode Island without alluding in any way to Roger 
Williams. So it is but fitting that a review of the life of 
one so intimately connected with the early history of the 
village of Centerdale, and whose life-long interest was so 
identified with its progress, should be given at this time. 

James Angell was born December 5th, 1781, and came 
from sturdy old Puritan stock. He was the son of James 
Angell and Amey Day, nee daughter of Nathaniel Day 
(mentioned in cha|jter II of this work), and was a direct 



lineal descendant of the fifth generation from Thomas 
Angell, who came with Roger Williams from England in 
1 63 1, he being one of the five persons who constituted 
Roger Williams's little party when he came and founded 
the city of Providence in 1636.* 

James Angf.ll. 

The early life of James Angell was not unlike that of 
other boys brought up on a farm. He inherited a strong 
and robust constitution, and his boyhood days upon the 
farm were well calculated to firmly knit his young frame 
together. He was possessed of wonderful vitality, and 
seemed never to tire from work or appear fatigued; nor 
was he ever sick a day in his life until the illness that 
caused his death at the age of 89 years. His habits were 

*See Chapter II, 


correct in every way. He was a very temperate man in 
the use of ardent spirits, although not an total abstainer. 

As evidence of his wonderful vitality, it may be men- 
tioned that at the age of eighty-five years he would go 
into the field and do what would be considered a good 
day's work for a man of forty years; and in the haying 
season would take his scythe and mow with the rest of 
the men; and in the parlance of the hay-field, "no man 
could mow his heels." 

He was of a genial and pleasant disposition, cordial 
and courteous to all, and seemed to possess a certain 
amount of unassumed dignity which commanded a re- 
spectful recognition from all. He took an active interest 
in all that pertained to the moral and intellectual welfare 
of the community, and was foremost in all philanthropic 
enterprises. He was honored many times by his towns- 
men, who elected him to various public offices of the 
town, including that of representative to the General 
Assembly for the years 1843-44-45. 

He was twice married: the first time to Lydia Olney, 
the second time to Selinda Ray. Six children were born 
by the first wife: Ehsha O., Amanda, Amey, Nathaniel, 
Hannah P., and Henry J., and two were born by the 
second wife: James Halsey and Adeline F. 

It is interesting to note the extreme longevity of the 
family. The combined ages of James Angell and four 
of his brothers at the time of their death was 424 years, 
an average of nearly 85 years each; while the comljined 
ages of four of his children was 329 years, an average of 
over 82 years each; and one of the sons died at the age 
of 94 years. 

While yet a young man James Angell decided to emi- 


grate to the State of New York, or, as it was then called, 
to the far west. He accordingly gathered his household 
goods together, and, placing them, with his little family, 
consisting of his young wife and two small children, upon 
an ox-cart, started on the long and tedious journey. 
This was in 1808, many years before the advent of the 
steam railroad. 

After arriving at his destination he purchased a farm 
near Saratoga, N. Y., where he remained three years, or 
until 181 1, when he returned to Rhode Island, making 
the return trip in the same manner as he had gone; the 
time occupied in the journey being about three weeks each 
way, w^hich is quite in contrast with the modern method 
of traveling in a vestibuled train of drawing-room cars and 
making the journey in a few hours. 

Shortly after he returned he leased the farm and tavern 
known then as the "Thayer Stand," on Fruit Hill, and 
renamed the stand " Fruit Hill Tavern, " and ever after the 
locality has been known as Fruit Hill. It received its 
name on account of the delicious fruit which grew there 
in abundance, especially cherries. 

In 1822 Mr. Angell's lease expired, and he removed 
from Fruit Hill and decided to establish a tavern at Cen- 
terdale (or Center, as it was then called). Early in the 
spring of 1824 ground was broken for the erection of the 
structure, which was soon to be noted as the most popular 
and hospitable tavern in the northern part of the State; 
the house was completed during the summer, and late 
in the fall of the same year was opened to the public. 

James Angell was well calculated to be a successful 
landlord. His old-time courteous and dignified manner, 
combined with his genial and generous disposition, es- 
pecially fitted him for the host of the village tavern. 




The house is 30 x 55 feet, two stories in height, and at 
the time it was buih was not adorned with the piazza 
which now runs the entire length of the front of the build- 
ing; but there was a porch, or stoop, as it was then 
called, that ran across the south end. This, however, long 
since disappeared by being enclosed in the body of the 

Ten fire-places constituted the heating apparatus, while 
two brick ovens served to bake the bread and pastry and 
roast the turkeys for the dances held in the winter-time 
in the hall that occupied a portion of the second story. 

This cozy hall, 18 x 30 feet, was built with an arched 
ceiling 16 feet in height, and at each end was a fire-place, 
wdth brass andirons cleaned and polished to such bright- 
ness as to reflect around the room the soft light of the 
glowing fire, which added much to the cheerfulness of 
the room and helped the feeble light of the twenty-fi^•e 
or thirty candles, supported by circular chandeliers of 
tin, suspended from the arched ceiling. These, with per- 
haps a half-dozen candles upon the mantel-shelves at the 
ends of the hall, were expected to furnish ample light to 
properly display the costumes of the fair damsels as thev 
tripped the light fantastic toe to the music of the orchestra 
stationed in the little boxlike balcony, or alcove, in the 
side of the room, fully nine feet above the floor. 

These festive occasions wTre always supplemented by 
a turkey supper, prepared under the direct supervision 
of the landlady; and it was at these times that she was 
afforded an opportunity to display her skill in tlie culinary 

Turkey suppers in those times were not .served in 
courses, but in the good old-fashioned way; all of the 


good things being tastefully arranged upon the table 
before the guests were seated. 

The uncarved turkeys were placed upon the table, 
flanked by all of the fixings incidental to such suppers, 
together with many kinds of pies and cake (all home-made, 
of course). Fruit, consisting of apples and raisins (and 
sometimes oranges), were arranged in tall glass dishes; 
and if the occasion was of especial note, nuts were in- 
cluded; but almonds and pecans were only provided for 
very special events. 

As already stated, the suppers were served in one course, 
everything being placed upon the table and everybody 
helping themselves to as much as they desired. It was 
always served at 12 o'clock, after which dancing would be 
resumed and continued until daylight. 

Square dances, or cotillions, as they wTre then called, 
were the popular dances of those days, and the "Schot- 
tische" and "Polka" were generally tried once during 
the evening; but "Money Musk" and the "Virginia Reel" 
were alw^ays included in the programme. 

These grand balls, as they were called, occurred about 
four times during the winter, and w^re held on the evening 
of Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, and Washing- 
ton's birthday. Those held at other times were called 
cotillion parties. They were highly popular throughout 
this section of the State between the years 1835 and 1857, 
particularly so between 1847 and 1857, while the tavern 
was under the management of James Halsey Angell (son 
of the original landlord). But during the financial de- 
pression throughout the country in 1857 the people had 
less money to spend for recreation and amusement, and 
this, being followed by the breaking out of the Civil War 


in 1 86 1, caused the old-time balls to live only in the 
pleasant memories of those who in their younger days 
had taken part in them. 

The tavern room, or bar-room as it was generally called, 
undoubtedly was the most attractive room in the house to 
most visitors to the village tavern. It was in this room 
in the early days of the tavern that the farmer and his 
neighbors would congregate in the long winter evenings, 
and seat themselves upon benches and heavy oaken chairs 
around the open fire-place, with the wood piled high upon 
the iron andirons, and listen to the yarns spun, perhaps 
by some returned sailor from a long whaling voyage, or 
perhaps to some one who had a hunting or fishing story 
to tell or re-tell that number of times that there was some 
danger that he would convince himself that the story was 
true. The teamster was always welcomed to these gath- 
erings, for he was sure to bring the latest news from the 
northern part of the State as well as from the city. 

This was long before the advent of the steam railroad, 
when all of the supplies as well as the products of the 
large mills and other industries of the northern part of 
the State were hauled by horses and oxen. And as it re- 
quired two days to make the round trip, the Centerdale 
tavern was the stopping-place for the night, and sixty or 
eighty horses would often be accommodated at the tavern 
stables, together with half a dozen yoke of oxen. 

It was in this room that many of the old-time sailors 
would drink the good-bye to their friends before leaving 
for New Bedford, Mass., to embark on a five-years' 
whaling voyage. Jack Walmsley, Henry Burlingame, 
Jerry Daily, Stephen Briggs, and Captain John Lawton 
are names well worthy of being mentioned as brave and 


hardy whalemen who took their departure from here. It 
was here that the adventurous gold hunters of '49 assem- 
bled to plan and arrange for a trip around Cape Horn to 
California, in the good ship "Perseverance." 

The bar, which was the most important fixture of this 
room, was placed at one end of the room, and was a curi- 
ous little affair in comparison with the modern idea of bar 
fixtures of artistic wood carvings and massive mirrors. 
This little bar was about six feet in length by fourteen 
inches in width, the top being fully four feet aljove the 
floor; and if a man was a little under size, his head would 
come but little above the top of the bar. 

Suspended over the bar, securely fastened to the ceiling 
by strong hinges, was a sort of gate which was let down 
at night when the bar was closed, and gave to the room 
somewhat of the appearance of a bank, only the grating 
was made of wood instead of grill-work of polished brass. 
In the morning the gate would be raised u]) and secured 
to the ceiling by a strong iron hook. In 1853 the gate was 
removed; but the little bar remained until 1870, when that 
gave way to one of more pretentious appearance. 

Back of the bar were four or five shelves built against 
the wall, like the shelves in a store, along which were 
arranged tall glass jars filled with long sticks of striped 
candy; tobacco, cigars, and nuts of all kinds were also 
kept for sale. But the liquor was kept under the bar, 
out of sight, and consisted of brandy, West India rum. 
New England rum, Holland gin, and Jenckes gin,* wine, 
and cider, and in the early days a kind of drink called 
"Bitters." Whiskey was but little used here before i860, 
but was kept in small quantities. Ale, or strong beer as 

*An American product. 



it was called, was moderately drunk ; but no lager was sold 
until after 1870. The first lager beer brewed in the United 
States was in 1843, and was made then only in very small 
quantity in New York, and it was several years after be- 
fore it was sold regularly in a saloon in that city; and it 
took several years more for it to become popular; the diffi- 
culty of keeping it without ice being a bar to its general 
use until the use of ice became more common. 

Glasses Used in Old Times and To-Dav. 

It is curious to note the prices charged in those times and 
compare them with the prices charged to-day. Brandy 
and rum were but four cents a glass; gin was three cents, 


unless a little molasses were added, then the price was 
four cents. The price of whiskey was the same as gin; 
but, as said before, whiskey was but little used. 

The glasses used were the common water or table 
tumblers, like those now in general use about tlie house- 
hold, instead of the diminutive little glasses in use to-day. 

Cigars were one cent each, or six for five cents; and in 
after years two and three cent cigars were introduced, but 
not many of that extravagant price were sold. After the 
breaking out of the Civil War in 1861, prices advanced 
rapidly, and, strange as it may seem, have kept on ad- 

A reference to the following bills, copied from an old 
account book of James Angell, while landlord of the 
Centerdale tavern, will prove interesting. Those having 
dates earlier than 1824 were taken from books while he 
was at the Fruit Hill tavern. 

North Providence March 1826 
Amasa Smith 

To James Angell Dr 

Mar 4 To 3i gills Gin 22 

" 28 " 2 glasses Rum 08 

" " " I Glass Gin and Molasses 4 

Dec 26 " I glass Gin & i pint New Rum 10 

Jan 2 " 5 glasses gin 16 

" " " 2 glass gin 6 


North Providence 1827 
James Latham 

To James Angell Dr 

Feb 27 To I Drink of Rum and i Drink Beer 06 

Mar 16 "2 " " 8 


Dec 13 To Lodging and Wine 20 

" 27 " 4 drinks 16 

" 29 " 2 " 8 


North Providence 1827 
Christopher Brown 

To James Angell Dr 

Feb 15 To I quart Gin M 

" 20 I dinner and Bitters 22 

I Cigar 01 

Ginger bread for boy 06 

North Providence 1827 
Thomas Manchester 

To James Angell Dr 

Feb 17 To I glass Rum & 1 2 cigars 12 

" " " I Pie and cheese 0° 

Mar 18 18 cigars ^^ 

" Wine and Egg °1 

" 23 " 4 Cigars & I Orange 08 

" 27 " 9 cigars 3 glasses gin I glass wine 22 

North Providence 1830 

Mr Amsdell 

To James Angell Dr 

Oct II To 2 meals victuals Lodging & Bitters 44 

" 12 To I " " and Bitters 22 

Nov 30 To I " " & I drink 22 

Halsey Sweeti.and 
Oct Q 18 1 7 To boarding your man Henry ^Nlacquire 

9 weeks & 6 days at $2.00 per week Si 9. 71 


Christopher Brown 

May i6th 1817 To 2 quarts N. E. Ru;n . . .25 

" " " I Loda;ing 08 

" '' " I Gill Bitters 10 

" 18 " " Cider Cigars and Toljacco 08 

Aug 9 1834 John Angrll Blacksmitli 

" " " To I dinner and Wine 20 

"12 " " Supper Breakfast & Lodging 44 

" 15 " " I Lodging 08 

It would seem from the aljove account that a man with 
but Httle money could manage to live ({uite like a gentle- 
man of leisure. With board only two dollars per week 
and brandy four cents a glass, or wine and eggs for seven 
cents, and then enjoy a cigar for one cent, there certainly 
would be no occasion for him to C()m|)lain of being over- 

But regardless of the exceeding low prices charged in 
those days, the tavern-keepers seemed to prosper and get 
rich just the same as they do now, with board at two or 
more dollars per day, brandy at thirty-live cents a glass, 
and cigars fifteen cents each; but just how they accom- 
plished it is hard to understand. 

At the time the tavern was built it was still the custom 
to hang out a sign-board, or swinging sign, in some con- 
spicuous place, and a tavern would be thought hardly 
complete without its swinging sign. Some of the tavern- 
keepers took especial pride in their swinging signs, and oc- 
casionally one would be seen which displayed no little ar- 
tistic taste; but as a rule they did not possess much merit. 

The tavern-keeper would select such a design as met 
his fancy. If he was a lover of horses, he might select a 
horse for his emblem. And if the painter should happen 




to have more black paint than white, and painted the horse 
black, the tavern might afterwards be known to the 
country around as the Black-Horse Tavern, or the White- 

^ Horse Tavern, accord- 

1 ! ing to the color the 
painter painted the 
horse. The deer, bull, 
or lion's head were all 
popular designs. The 
picture of an Indian 
was sometimes used. 
But during and after 
the Revolution the pic- 
ture of Washington, or 
an American eagle, was 
the favorite emblem 
painted upon the swing- 
ing signs. The em- 
1 )lem selected by James 
Angell for his sign- 




Swinging Sign on the Village Tavern. 

board was the eagle. 
At the time the sign 
was painted an attempt 
no doubt was made to 
add a little dignity to 
the house by naming it 
the "Center HotcW 
(with two Ts) instead of tavern, but the puljlic did not 
seem to relish the high-toned name, for it was always 
called the "Center Tavern," and later the "Centerdale 
Tavern," until recent years when the term hotel was 


The sign is still kept as a relic of old times and is in a 
good state of preservation, considering the number of 
years it was exposed to the weather. The old sign was re- 
moved from the house in 1852. 

It will be interesting to note the successors of James 
Angell as landlord of the hotel. James Angell presided 
as landlord from 1824 to 1841. It was during his seven- 
teen years' administration as landlord that the place 
established the reputation of being a model hostlery. In 
1841 he was succeeded by his son Nathaniel, who remained 
until November i, 1848, when he was succeeded by his 
brother James Halsey Angell, who conducted the house 
until April 1, 1858. It was during these years that the 
balls spoken of in this chapter were so popular, par- 
ticularly so during the administration of James Halsey 
x^ngell (or Halsey, as he was always called). J. Halsey 
Angell retired from the hotel business April i, 1858, and 
was succeeded by Henry C. Peckham, of Danielson, 
Conn., who remained until April i, 1859, when Albert 
Haynes assumed charge; and April i, 1861, was suc- 
ceeded by Albert Mowry, who remained only one year, 
or until April 8, 1862, when Nathaniel Angell again 
became landlord, for the second time, and successfully 
conducted the house until November 3, 1873. Thus it 
will be observed that of the first half-century of the exist- 
ence of the Centerdale hotel, forty-five years of it were 
under tlie direction of James x^ngell and his two sons. 
And the policy adopted by the father was always adhered 
to by the sons, no one being permitted to drink to excess 
at the bar, and no card-playing or gambling devices were 
ever allowed u])on the premises. 

Nathaniel Angell finally retired from the management 


of the hotel, November 3, 1873, when James Barnes 
assumed charge and continued until July 7, 1886, when 
he was succeeded by James Higgins. Mr. Higgins did 
not remain long, and October 6, 1887, James Barnes 
returned and remained until April i, 1889, when he was 
succeeded by Albertus Searle until April 10, 1890, when 
James Barnes for the third time assumed charge of the 
place and remained until his death, which occurred July 
17th, 1 89 1. Cassius S. Mathewson, son-in-law of James 
Barnes, then assumed charge of the house and continued 
to be the genial landlord of the Centerdale hotel until his 
death, which occurred January 28, 1909. 

The following is the chronological order of the suc- 
cession of the landlords of the hotel from its beginning to 
the present time: James Angell, from 1824 to 1841; 
Nathaniel Angell, from 1841 to November i, 1848; James 
Halsey Angell, from November i, 1848, to April i, 1858; 
Henry C. Peckham, from April i, 1858, to April i, 1859; 
Albert Haynes from April i, 1859, to April i, 1861 ; Albert 
Mowry, from April i, 1861, to April 8, 1862; Nathaniel 
Angell, from April 10, 1862, to November 3, 1873; James 
Barnes, from November 3, 1873, to July 7, 1886; James 
Higgins, from August 16, 1886, to September 19, 1887 
James Barnes, from October 6, 1887, to April i, 1889 
Albertus Searles, from April i, 1889, to April 10, 1890 
James Barnes, from April 17, 1890, to July 17, 1891 
Cassius S. Mathewson, from July 17, 1891, to January 28, 

It will now be necessary to go back a few years in our 
story of the old tavern. James Angell, the original land- 
lord of the hotel, died November 20, 1870. The hotel 
estate was then conveyed to his son James Halsey Angell, 


who held it until his death, July i, 1890; when it passed 
to his oldest son, George F. Angell; when, upon his death, 
x\ugust 18, 1894, it passed to his widow, Sarah L. Angell, 
who continued to own the property until August 25th, 
1897, '^vhen it was sold to Cassius S. JMathewson. Thus 
the old familiar hostlery passed out of the Angell family 
after continuous ownership of the land for over 160 years. 

Shortly after ]\Ir. JMathewson purchased the estate he 
proceeded to renovate the old hostelry and introduce many 
modern conveniences. An addition was built on, a steam- 
heating plant installed, electric lights introduced, the bar- 
room enlarged to more than double its former size, and 
the house throughout the inside was thoroughly remodeled. 
And if we were to visit to-day the Centerdale hotel, we 
would recognize but little in common with the old tavern 
stand of eighty years ago. The swinging sign has dis- 
appeared, the cheerful fire places have been removed, 
supplanted by the modern steam heater; the bright and 
glaring electric light has taken the place of candle and the 
lamp, the little bar with its portcullis gate has been 
removed to make way for the modern bar fixtures of 
carved oak, and massive mirrors; all of which give to 
the ancient hostlery the appearance of a modern hotel 
instead of the old-time tavern stand. 

The only room that still retains its old-time appearance 
is the little dance hall with its high-arched ceiling, which 
still remains intact with the exception that one of the fire- 
places has been removed; and as we gaze around the 
room our eyes rest upon the lone fire-place with the empty 
andirons which once held the bright and glowing embers, 
but now are cold and cheerless. A feeling almost of 
sadness comes o'er us as our minds revert back to the 


time when the cheerful fire shown brightly across the 
open hearth, adding much to the joyous scenes of bye- 
gone days, and seemed to burn more brightly as the merry 
dance went on; and not unlike the warm heart of a 
cherished friend, that beat the faster when the cup of 
joy and happiness is full. 


The Country Cobbler. — The Harness Maker, 
^the country cobbler. 

IN the early days of the colony it was the custom for the 
shoemakers, or cobblers, as they were called, to pack 
their kit, together with a few lasts, in a strong bag, and 
with a roll of leather travel from house to house and re- 
pair up the shoes, or make new ones, for the whole family. 

These visits were made once or twice each year, and 
without doubt the fall visit was a welcome one to the 
farmer boys, who, in most cases, were obliged to go bare- 
footed until the cobbler came, no matter how late in the 
season his annual visits were made. 

Just who the first cobbler was whose annual visits 
made glad the hearts of the pioneer's home is not posi- 
tively known. Indications point strongly to Epenetus 

There is no question but that Epenetus was a shoe- 
maker. His name is mentioned in the "Early Records of 
Providence" as Epenetus Olney the "shoomaker," be- 
sides, the inventory of his estate after his death in i6g8 
includes all sorts of shoemaker's tools, etc. 

But whether he ran a perambulating shop or not is 
hard to determine, but undoubtedly he did, for the people 
were too thinly scattered about the country for a cobbler 
])ermanently located to get much work; l^esides, it was 
the custom in those days for the C()])ljler to make house 


to house visits. Diligent research and inquiry fail to 
reveal who his successor was. There is no positive evi- 
dence that a shoemaker was pcrmanctly located in Ccn- 
terdale until about 1820, or shortly after the introduction 
of the cotton industry by Israel Arnold, when Samuel 
Sweet did all of the cobbling that the neighborhood had 
need. He was at that time the miller at the grist mill, and 
when grinding was dull he would turn his hand to cobbling. 
After he gave up business there was no resident shoemaker 
here for many years, the people carrying their work to 
Graniteville (an adjoining village), where Paris Whitman 
attended to their wants. Paris Whitman was succeeded 
by Horace Convas, who carried on the business until his 
death. In 1850, Arnold Hawkins, who had previously 
occupied a shop on Fruit Hill, moved to this place and 
established a shop which was really the first shoemaker 
shop permanently established in Centerdale. Arnold 
Hawkins was an expert workman at his trade, and was 
capable of producing work quite equal to any. 

At the time he came to this place but few ready-made 
boots or shoes were worn, except of the very common or 
cheap kind, most people preferring to have their boots and 
shoes made by the village cobbler. The term Boots is used 
here to designate the long-legged boot worn in those days, 
which extended as far up as the knee— in some cases above 
the knee. Comparatively few shoes were worn by men or 
boys, and a man would not be considered fashionably 
dressed with shoes, except in the l^all-room, when pumps 
(a low-cut slipper) were worn. It was a common custom 
when a father's boots were past repairing to take the long 
lees of the boot to the shoemaker and have a pair made 
from them for one of his boys. If the leather ran a little 


short of the proper length the shoemaker would add on a 
piece of fancy colored leather (usually red) at the top, and 
the boy who was fortunate enough to have a pair of red- 
topped boots usually wore his trousers tucked inside of his 
boot-legs, to attract the attention of his comrades to his 
coveted prize. 

Arnold Hawkins continued in the business until his 
death, which occurred in 1894, after forty-four years of 
active business life in this place. 


The first harness shop in Centerdale was established by 
James E. Bailey in the year 1857, in a building then stand- 
ing at the junction of Smith street and Waterman avenue; 
the building where the first store was started and where 
the first post-ofhce was located. He remained at this 
place about a year, when he removed to a room in a build- 
ing that had been recently erected on INIineral Spring 
avenue, by George H. Page, for the manufacture of car- 
riages. James E. Bailey was a practical harness maker, 
having served a full apprenticeship, and was proficient in 
making all parts of a harness. He was a man of a genial 
disposition, possessing a kind and pleasing voice, and 
exceetiingly courteous in his manner, even carrying his 
polite and courteous manner to an extreme limit. He was 
much interested in military affairs and connected himself 
with a prominent military company in the city of Provi- 
dence, and in due time was promoted to the office of 
2d Lieutenant; and at the breaking out of the Civil war, 
in 1 86 1, went to the front with the First Regiment, Rhode 
Island Volunteers, and afterwards re-enlisted in the Third 
Regiment, Rhode Island Heavy Artillery, and served 


throughout the war, returning with an honorable record, 
having been promoted to the office of Major. His mihtary 
record will be given in another place. 

Shortly after Bailey went to the defence of his country 
a shop was opened by Louis Bell, in a small building 
number 1999 Smith street, where he conducted the business 
for about two years, when he was succeeded by Thomas 
Anderson until the summer of 1864, when the shop was 
closed for a short time. 

At the close of the war Major Bailey returned to Cen- 
terdale, and, finding his old place of business closed, and 
desiring to again enter into business, re-opened the shop in 
August, 1864, and continued in business until the spring 
of 1866, when from business adversities he was compelled 
to make an assignment and close up the shop. 

The place did not remain long closed, for in April, 1866, 
Alexander W. Harrington re-opened the shop, and for 
many years did a thriving business. He was a very 
energetic and public-spirited young man, and did much 
for the improvement and social welfare of the community. 
In 1876 he entered into the manufacture of paper, and 
with others leased two paper mills at West Medway, 
Mass. He has since that time continued in the paper 
business, in some of its branches, and for many years 
had an office in New York City. He was succeeded in the 
harness business, in May, 1877, by Frank C. Angell. 
The business under his management soon began to in- 
crease, and soon called for larger and more commodious 
rooms, and in 1881 he erected the building known as the 
Masonic Hall building, and numbered 2001 to 2007 
Smith street, and removed to that place, occupying nearly 
the entire lower floor of the building. With the increased 


room there was ample opportunity to extend the business 
and add many accessory Hnes of goods. After doing a 
thriving business for fifteen years he decided to retire 
from the business that he might give his full attention to 
the real estate business, in which he was at that time 
much interested. 

The advent of the steam and electric cars eventually 
caused the business to decline, in consequence of which 
there has been no harness and saddlery store here since, 
except in a small way when some one would open a shop 
for repairs, but, meeting with indifferent success, would 
remain but a short time. 


The \^illage Blacksmith and Wheelwright and the 
First Livery Stable. 

LTndcr a spreading chestnut tree 

The village smithy stands; 
The smith, a mighty man is he, 

With large and sinewy hands; 
And the muscles of his brawny arms 

Are strong as iron bands. 

— Longfellow. 

TO speak of the village blacksmith shop would cause 
the mind of the old-time resident of Centerdale to 
revert to an old smoke-blackened building standing a little 
way back from the highway; near it a large tree with long 
spreading branches covered in the summer with green 
foliage and reaching far out over the blackened ground in 
front of the shop; and in the mind-picture may be seen, 
just a little to one side of the door, a pile of half-burned 
embers, the remnant of the circular fire used for heating 
tires for the heavy cart-wheels. 

The building, which long since had lost its upright 
position, is dotted here and there with patches of dingy 
red paint, the remains of what was once a coat of red, 
but which had long since failed to withstand the storms 
of time. And leaning against the old weather-worn shop 
a number of cast-off wagon tires have found a resting- 
place, and, lying near, is a pile of old wheels and broken 
parts of old wagons. Inside of the shop, upon the smoke- 
begrimed sides and beams, are hanging long rows of horse- 


shoes, of many shapes and sizes, waiting to be nailed to the 
feet of the faithful horse. At one end is the forge with 
the open fire, which now and then sends forth spiteful 
sparks as the strong arm of the smith forces down the 
lever of the massive bellows. Near the forge, upon a 
solid oaken block, rests the anvil, behind which stands the 
village blacksmith with face all tanned and begrimed with 
smoke to nearly the color of his long leather apron; his 
sleeves rolled far above the elbows, showing the muscles 
and sinews of brawny arms. 

Soon we see him take from off the forge a half-com- 
pleted horseshoe and raining down rapid blows with a 
heavy hammer, which seems like a toy in his vice-like 
grasp, throwing out myriads of glittering sparks on all 
sides like a minature display of fireworks, now and then 
tapping the anvil a measured blow which seems to chime 
with the heavier one like music. 

This was the appearance of the old blacksmith shop as 
it was more than three-score years ago, w^hen John R. 
Cozzens, the village blacksmith, stood behind the anvil 
in Centerdale. 

To give the early history of the first shop it will be 
necessary to go back to the year 1820, when Halsey Sweet- 
land leased a piece of land from Nathaniel Angell on the 
west side of Smith street, nearly opposite the junction of 
Waterman avenue; here he erected the first blacksmith 
shop in the village, which at that time contained scarcely 
half a dozen houses. He was quite successful in his 
business, and October 16, 1826, purchased the land the 
shop stood upon, and continued to work at his trade until 
March 18, 1829, when he sold the place to Brown Sweet. 


Mr. Sweet continued the business about three years, and 
October 29, 1831, sold the shop to Edwin Capron. 

Shortly after Edwin Capron purchased the property he 
started a livery stable in connection with the shop. Mr. 
Capron was not a blacksmith by trade, and did not meet 
the success that a skilled workman might have done ; and 
March 14, 1836, he sold the shop to David Cutting. Mr. 
Capron, however, retained the livery business, and con- 
tinued the same with success until his death, in 1889, an 
account of which will be given in another place. 

For some reasons unknown at this time Cutting did not 
remain long in the place, and October 2 of the following 
year, 1837, he sold it to Samuel S. Arnold, who remained 
here until April 17, 1843, when he sold the place to John 
R. Cozzens. In 1854 Mr. Cozzens demolished the old 
shop and erected a new one at the same place. Mr. 
Cozzens came to this place from Boston, Mass., where he 
learned his trade. He was a typical blacksmith in appear- 
ance; fully six feet in height, with broad shoulders, and of 
quick and agile movement. 

He always took great interest in athletic sports where 
strength and agility were required, and often in his young 
days he would enter wrestling contests, which were 
popular in those days, to show his strength and agility. 
He was of a kind and social disposition and popular with 
his townsmen, generous to a fault with his hard-earned 
money. His purse string was always found untied at the 
call of the poor and needy and at the demand of the public 
welfare. He took active part in the political affairs of 
the town, but never aspired to any prominent position in 
the offices of the town, although many times urged to do 


He was a mechanic of more than ordinary ability, and 
his remarkable vitality and industrious habits persuaded 
him to stand behind the anvil many years after old age 
had silently whispered to him to lay down the hammer 
and let the fire upon the forge be extinguished. j\Ir. 
Cozzens died, after a short illness, April 6th, 1897, in the 
76th year of his age, and was buried in IMineral Spring 
cemetery, Pawtucket, with IMasonic honors, by Roger 
Williams Lodge, No. 32, of A. F. & A. M., of Center- 
dale, of which he was a charter member. 

After the death of Mr. Cozzens the shop was sold to 
William A. Sweet, who in 1900 demolished the old build- 
ing and erected the present one and leased the same to 
his brother Herbert Sweet, who still occupies it. Other 
blacksmith shops have been started here from time to 
time but in all cases were of but temporary existence. 


The first wheelwright shop in the village was built by 
William Sweet, in 1830, on land leased from James Angell, 
on the west side of Smith street, nearly opposite the junc- 
tion of Mineral Si)ring avenue. It was a small one-story 
building, 18 x 25 feet, and stood with the gable towards 
the street. Work-benches were arranged upon either side, 
where two or three men could work, but generally one 
man was sufficient to do the work of repairs, with an 
occasional new cart or farm wagon to be built. 

Mr. Sweet continued to run the shop until 1845, when he 
sold the building and the business to Caleb V. Waterman. 
Caleb V. Waterman was born in Coventry, R. I., and in 
early life was apprenticed for seven years to Samuel Bray- 
ton, of Cranston, to learn the wheelwright trade. 


Caleb V. Waterman. 

To learn the trade of wheelwright in those days meant 
something more than it means to-day, when machinery 
enters so largely into the manufacture of almost every 
part of a wagon, for in those days each and every part 
of a wagon must be sawed or hewn from the log to its 
required form, and much labor and not a little skill was 
required to do it. To order a cart or wagon from Caleb 
Waterman meant many hard days' work with the saw and 
axe before the parts could be assembled together. Each 
spoke for the wheels must be split with an axe from well- 
seasoned cleft oak or walnut wood of straight and perfect 
grain, then hewn to the required form with a broad-axe, 
after which they were taken to the work-bench, and under 
his skillful hand were smoothed and tenoned, to enter 


the hub which had already been encircled with mortised 
holes true and square. The felloes, or rims, were all 
sawed by hand from heavy plank in two-spoke sections, 
and thus every part of the wagon was made in the same 
slow and laborious manner; and it might hv truthfully 
said that a wagon made after tliat manner would be like 
"The deacon's wonderful one-horse shay." 

Caleb Waterman w^as a man who might be justly called 
a universal mechanic, since there was no part of a wagon 
that he could not make and make well. He could forge 
all of the ironwork, and was ecjually as good a worker in 
iron as wood. If necessary he could give assistance to 
the village butcher, being an expert at that business, as 
well as his own trade; and if a neighbor needed assistance 
in the hay-field Caleb Waterman's strong arms and willing 
hands were ever ready. For many years, or until his 
death, he served as undertaker, for, strange though it may 
seem to us, in those days the village wheelwright was 
generally the village undertaker. 

If a neighbor died the wheelwright was expected to 
make the coffin, provided he had not one already made 
of the proper size. If one had to be put together after a 
person died, not much time could be given to the making 
of an elaborate affair, even though it lay in the skill of the 
wheelwright to do so. A plain pine box with a coat of 
stain and, if the time permitted, a single coat of varnish 
was all that could be given, as well as all that was ex- 

In 1861 Mr. Waterman moved the shop to a lot on Water- 
man avenue and discontinued the wheelwright business 
and gave his attention to undertaking, and continued the 


same until his death, March 29th, 1865. The discon- 
tinuance of the wheehvright business by Mr. Waterman 
in 1 86 1 closed the first epoch of the business in this place. 
Caleb V. Waterman was always held in high esteem by 
his townsmen, and his sterling worth as a citizen was 
many times recognized by his appointment to places of 
honor and trust in the government of the town and State. 
He was elected senator from North Providence to the 
General Assembly, April 2, 185 1, and served until 1853. 
After his death, as a public recognition of his worth, the 
town council named one of the principal thoroughfares of 
the town Waterman avenue. 

In the year 1859 George H. Page and his brother Simon 
S. Page purchased a tract of land on the south side of 
Mineral Spring avenue, about seventy feet from the 
junction of Smith street, and erected thereon a two-story 
building, 30 x 50 feet, for the manufacturing of wagons 
and carriages of all kinds. 

Many wood-working machines were introduced, and 
carriages and wagons, both light and heavy, were manu- 
factured complete, from the turning of the hubs to the 
trimming of the tops of light buggies. The woodwork 
was done upon the first floor, the painting and trimming 
upon the second floor, while the forging of the ironwork 
was done in the basement, which also held the contrivance 
which furnished the motive power for running the ma- 
chinery, which consisted of a combination of gears pro- 
pelled by horse-power. The enterprise proved a failure, 
and in 1861 the Messrs. Page made an assignment and 
the shop was leased to Israel B. Phillips, who continued 
the business until 1863, when the shop was closed for 
about a year. 


In 1864 George Thompson re-opened the shop, and the 
following year took into partnership James E. Bailey; 
the firm name being known as Bailey & Thompson. 
Business adversities overtook the firm, and in the spring 
of 1866 the business was sold out to Marvin Smith, who 
continued in it until 1868, when he was succeeded by 
Ethan Thornton. Mr. Thornton conducted the business 
for about one year, when he was succeeded by Thomas 
Harris, who remained until 1881, when the shop doors 
were closed for many years. 

Soon after the shop was closed, John R. Cozzens& Son 
(Charles) opened a small shop near their blacksmith shop, 
and ran it in a small way in connection with their black- 
smith business until the death of John R. Cozzens, in 
1897, when this shop was discontinued. 

January 10, 1894, George W. Harris purchased the 
land and buildings formally occupied by his brother 
Thomas and re-opened the old stand that had been closed 
since 1881. A blacksmith's forge was installed in con- 
nection with the wheelwright shop for the purpose of 
forging the ironwork for the wagons and for shoeing of 
horses. George Harris continued the business until 1906, 
when he sold out to George P. Willis. October 3, 1908, 
the land and building was sold and made into tenements. 


The first livery stable in Centerdale was established by 
Edwin Capron in the year 1831, and as he was one of the 
old-time residents of the village, having passed more than 
70 years of his life in Centerdale, a brief sketch of his life 
seems appropriate. 



Edwin Capron was the son of Asa and Sally Capron, 
and was born in Cumberland, R. I., October i6th, 1800. 
He was a lineal descendant of the sixth generation of 
Banfield Capron, who came from England about the year 
1660. He was twice married, the first time in 1822, to 
Deborah Angell, daughter of Olney Angell, who was also 
of good old Puritan stock, being a descendant of the sixth 
generation of Thomas Angell, mentioned in Chapter H 
of this work. She died January 24, 1831. In 1836 he 

The First Livery Stable. 

married for his second wife Emeline Wright, who sur^•i^'ed 
him and died December 31, 189 1. He was a man much 
respected among his neighbors; was upright and honorable 
in all transactions; always a temperate man in the use of 
ardent spirits. He was of a social and genial nature, always 
having a pleasant word for everyone. He was a man 
fully six feet in height, and exceedingly lithe and agile in 


his movements. To show his agihty in his old age, it will 
be interesting to say that at times when he would meet a 
few of his young acquaintances engaged in playful sports 
he would say, "Let me see if any one of you can jump 
from the ground and strike your heels together three 
times before alighting again." After many vain attempts 
they would give it up, when he would step forward and 
do the feat with so much case and grace as to make the 
younger ones feel ashamed; at the same time he would 
exclaim, with a cheerful laugh, "How is that for a man 
seventy-five years old?" 

He brought up a large family of children, three girls 
and six boys, all of whom inherited to a greater or less 
degree the lithesome agility of the father, but none his 
ec|ual. He died July 22, 1889, in the eighty-ninth year 
of his age. 

His early life was spent in the cotton mills at Centerdale, 
and elsewhere, where he learned the art of cotton manu- 
facturing, which will be spoken of later. Desiring a 
change of vocation, he in 1831 purchased the blacksmith- 
ing business, in Centerdale, of Brown Sweet. Not being 
a practical blacksmith, he started the livery business near 
by, anticipating tliat he could attend to that and at the 
same time have an oversight over the blacksmith shop. 
In March, 1836, he disposed of the business to David 
Cutting and moved to 'rhomi)son, Conn., and entered 
into the cotton manufacturing business. He, however, 
was not successful in this venture, and in 1840 sold out 
and returned to Centerdale and repurchased the livery 
stable. He continued the business at the same place 
until his death, which occurred July 22, 1889. He at 
that time had nearly completed his eighty-ninth year. 


Two or three attempts have been made to re-estabhsh 
the livery business here, but the invasion of the steam and 
electric cars has made the livery stable unprofitable, except 
when carried on in connection with some other business. 

Thus the death of Edwin Capron marked the decline 
of the independent livery stable in Centerdale. 

The Village Butcher. 

PREVIOUS to 1824 there was no resident butcher or 
markctman in Centerdale ; for, in the early days of 
the country the farmer depended ahiiost entirely upon the 
products of the farm to supply his daily wants. Not only 
the products of the garden, but his fuel and clothing, 
also his supply of meat, came from the farm. 

Occasionally a farmer would have an ox or a cow not 
needed, and with the assistance of his neighbors the cow 
would be slaughtered and the quarters hung up in the 
cellar to be kept cool ; ice not being in general use in those 
days. If there was danger of the meat spoiling before it 
could be consumed by his own household, he would lend 
a portion of it to his neighbors, and when they had an 
opportunity tlie loan would be returned from their over- 
stock of fresh meat. 

One of the seasons always looked forward to with much 
interest on a farm in those days was the annual hog- 
killing day. This generally occurred late in the fall after 
the corn had been harvested and fed to the pigs to get 
them in a proper condition for the killing. Upon an 
appointed day the neighboring farmers would drive their 
hogs to a convenient place, usually to the farm most 
centrally located, where arrangements had previously been 
made; the platform erected and scalding-vat placed. 

The place selected was generally in the orchard or under 
a large tree with low spreading branches to suspend the 
dressed hogs upon. The day was looked forward to as a 


kind of holiday by the young people, although there was 
plenty of hard work to be done. 

The farmer's wife, assisted by her good neighbors, was 
expected to prepare a feast for the men at noon-time, 
which always consisted of hog's pluck smothered in onions. 
Potatoes, turnips, squash, and other garden vegetables 
were served, together with the old-fashioned corn -meal 
pudding sweetened with molasses. Cider was generally 
the drink furnished, and it is doubtful if the elaborate 
feasts furnished in the city banquet halls of the present 
day are partaken with a better relish. 

For several days now the farmer's household saw busy 
times. The different parts of the hog must be prepared 
for future use. The hams must be cured and hung in a 
barrel or in the fire-place over a smoke from a slow corn-cob 
fire; the pork cut in long strips and placed with a plenty 
of salt in a barrel kept for the purpose, and it was no 
unusual boast to tell how many generations the same 
pork-barrel had done service in the family. The year's 
supply of lard must be carefully rendered, and the pole 
again hung to hold the long row of links of savory sausages. 

Truly these wxre busy times for the farmer's wife as 
well as the whole household, for each had their particular 
part to attend to. Thus were most of the wants of the 
farmer supplied from the products of his own farm and 
he was not wholly dependent upon the weekly visits of 
the butcher's cart. 

After the introduction of the cotton mill and other 
industries, bringing together many people engaged in 
other walks of life, it presented an opportunity for some 
one to establish a meat market in the place. 

Asa Steere, then a young man, was quick to sec the 
opportunity, and in 1824 established the first slaughter- 


house and meat business in Centerdale. x^t the time lie 
started in business here he had but a few hard-earned 
dollars he had saved from his meagre wages as a farmer 
boy or at such other work as he could find to do. He had 
but little or no education, but he possessed a clear mind 
and robust health and a determination to get along in the 
world. Ready and quick to take advantage of every 
opportunity to better himself, and a faculty to meet an 
emergency with a quick perception of just what to do 
to attain success. 

In those days all cattle, sheep, and hogs were purchased 
on the hoof and slaughtered by the local butcher; as no 
dressed meat was brought from the west as is now done. 
The cattle were driven or shipped east, alive, to Brighton, 
Mass., that for many years being the principal cattle 
market for the east. It was the custom for the butcher 
to make periodical visits to Brighton, and, after securing a 
sufficient number, to drive them overland to their destina- 
tion. A no small undertaking to drive a herd of strange 
cattle over strange roads for fifty, and in some cases one 
hundred, miles or more without mishap. 

Sometimes a drover or cattle dealer would make a tour 
of the country towns over the public highways, driving a 
large herd of cattle, sheep, or hogs before him, when the 
butchers could make their selection without journeying to 
Brighton. But the modern method of transporting dressed 
meat from the west, on quickly-moving trains, almost to 
the door of the marketman has long since done away with 
the familiar sights of those days. 

Asa Steere continued in the meat business until 1861, 
always doing a thriving business. His market and slaugh- 
ter-house were located on the west side of Steere street, 



about 150 feet from Smith street. In 1828 he built 
and occupied the house now standing on the east corner 
of Smith and Steere streets for his homestead place; the 
house standing nearly on the same spot where the first 
schoolhouse was built. In 1861, after nearly forty years 
of active business life, and having accumulated a small 
fortune, he retired from the business, selling the same to 
Frederick M. Aldrich. 

Asa Steeee. 

Asa Steere, or Major Steere, as he was generally called, 
being the pioneer butcher and marketman of Centerdale, 
a brief account of the man, who can justly be called one of 
the prominent and leading men of the town, seems appro- 
priate and interesting. 


He was born in Glocestcr, R. I., April 19th, 1800, of poor 
parents, and, like many boys of his time, enjoyed little or 
no advantages to get an education. Early in life, while 
yet a small boy, he was thrown upon his own resources 
to get a living as best he could; he worked as a farmer 
boy in his younger days, and his work in the open air 
caused him to mature into a strong and robust man. 
Nature favored him with a very commanding presence, 
being fully six feet in height and of large frame and portly 
build, weighing upwards of 260 or 270 pounds; and his 
general bearing was that of a man of dignity and refine- 
ment. He was open-hearted, very cordial and genial in 
his manner, exceedingly popular with the general public, 
and was many times honored with public ofiice by his 
townsmen; and without doubt but few men in Providence 
county were better known than Major Steere. 

When a young man he became interested in military 
affairs and joined the Greene Artillery Company, at that 
time forming a part of the Twelfth Regiment of Rhode 
Island Militia. In 1826 he was appointed ensign, and 
in 1827 was promoted to first lieutenant, holding the 
position until the following year, when he received a com- 
mission of captain. In 1829 he was promoted to major 
of the Twelfth Regiment, holding that office until 1831, 
when he resigned from active military duties. He always 
retained the title of Major, and was universally known and 
addressed as Major Steere. He took great interest in 
sporting events and was a familiar figure upon the^ race 
track when racing events were popular at the old Wash- 
ington Trotting Park, and was often called upon to offici- 
ate in the judges' stand. He married Susan Burlingame, 
daughter of Owen and Elizabeth Burlingame, of Glocester, 


in whom he found a wilHng helpmate. Three daughters 
were born to them. After retiring from business in 1861 
he lived as a man of leisure until INlay 6, 1882, when he 
died, at the age of eighty-two years, honored and respected 
by all who knew him. 

Frederick M. Aldrich, the successor to Asa Steere in 
the meat business, continued the same at the old stand 
until 1872, when he removed to what was then known as 
Railroad Hall building, which he erected for the purpose. 
In 1877 he sold one-half interest in the business to George 
G. Cozzens, who remained with him for about two years, 
when they dissolved partnership, each retaining one-half 
of the business. In 1881 Mr. Aldrich desired to emigrate 
to Colorado, and disposed of his interest to William A. 
Sweet who in 1893 sold out to his son Fred A. Sweet, 
who continued in the business until 1906, when he retired 
from active business. 

After the death of Asa Steere the homestead estate was 
sold to Stephen A. Kelley in 1884, who immediately set 
to work to renovate the old market and to re-establish 
the meat business at the old stand. Mr. Kelley being a 
young man, conducted the business upon modern meth- 
ods, and soon commanded a large trade, and ere long he 
had acquired a comfortable competence. In 1895 he 
retired from business and disposed of the several routes 
to different parties from other sections of the town. The 
old market and slaughter-house have since been sold to 
Frank C. Angell, who removed the building, and it is now 
used for other purposes. 

Several parties have from time to time entered into the 
business field, but remained so short a time that it would 
not be of sufficient interest to attempt to follow out their 


The First Store. — The Post-Office. 

THE first store in Centerdale was established by James 
and Richard Anthony (proprietors of the cotton 
mill), at the junction of Smith street and Waterman 
avenue, in a small one-story building which was torn down 
in 1892. 

It was the custom in the early days of the cotton in- 
dustry for the company, or proprietors of the mill, to 
conduct what was then called a factory store, where the 
employees could purchase such things as their everyday 
wants required. To obtain them from Providence was 
then quite an undertaking, for although the town was 
but five miles away, the conveniences for traveling were 
very limited, and a visit to the city twice a year was about 
all the average person w^ould expect or could afford; 
besides, those who worked in the mill had but little 
leisure time to waste going to and from the city, which 
would consume the greater part of the day; for their time 
was fully occupied in the mill, where they were expected 
to be at work as early as half-past four o'clock in the 
morning and remain until eight o'clock in the evening, 
with thirty minutes for each of the three daily meals. 

Pay-day came but seldom, although once in four weeks 
was supposed to be the settling time; but many of the 
operatives could get a settlement but once a year, and then 
their store account was often sufficient to dispose of the 
year's earnings. 



Not very long after the Anthonys started the store a 
young man entered their employ as clerk, or salesman, 
by the name of Luther Carpenter. 

Luther Carpenter. 

With the coming of Luther Carpenter to Centerdale 
began the career of one of the most successful men, from a 
business standpoint, that Centerdale has had. 

He owed his success to his correct habits, strict attention 
to business, his perseverance and tireless energy. Possess- 
ing a fair education, he was endowed with sound ideas of 
business methods, besides having the tact and shrewdness 
in driving a bargain of a New England Yankee. He 
was of an amiable disposition, very slow to anger, and 
markedly fond of children, so much so that older and 
apparently more important customers were often obliged 


to wait until the wants of the children were attended to. 
After serving as clerk for a time for the Anthonys he 
married Mary Anthony, daughter of James, one of the 
proprietors of the store, who soon afte turned the store 
over to Carpenter. The business under his management 
increased to such an extent that more room was needed 
than the little one-story building afforded. 

In 1842 Mr. Carpenter purchased a lot at the corner 
of Smith street and Mineral Spring avenue, and in 1847 
erected a building, into which he moved, which at the time 
was considered a model store of its kind. The arrangement 
of the store fully exemplified the advance ideas he had as 
to the manner of conducting a country store or variety 
store, this being the title painted upon the sign over the 
door. And variety store it certainly was, for there were 
few articles required in the everyday life of man or beast 
that could not be found in the store of Luther Carpen- 

He continued in business until his death, which came 
suddenly, from heart failure, October 7th, 1886. He was 
in the eighty-sixth year of his age and always had enjoyed 
most excellent health, seldom if ever being confined to the 
house from sickness, and but few gray hairs could be 
found in the luxurious growth of dark brown hair. Not- 
withstanding his advanced age, he retained his mental 
faculties to the hour of his death. His judgment in busi- 
ness transactions was as clear and sound as that of the 
average young man of thirty or thirty-five years. 

Soon after the death of Luther Carpenter the store was 
sold to George T. Batchelder, who had long been in 
Carpenter's employ. In 1855, George T. Batchelder, 
then a lad of nineteen years, entered the employ of Mr. 


Carpenter, as clerk or salesman, and remained with him 
until 1862, when he enlisted in Company C, Seventh 
Regiment of Rhode Island Volunteers during the Civil 
War. After he returned from the war, in 1865, he agian 
entered the employ of Carpenter and remained with him 
until the death of Mr. Carpenter, in 1886, when he became 
his successor in business. 

It will now be necessary to go back a few years in the 
history of the stores in Centerdale. In 1848 a man by 
the name of Richard Briggs re-opened the store at the 
place vacated by Luther Carpenter when he moved into 
his new store on Mineral Spring avenue, undoubtedly 
supposing that the old stand would hold a large part of 
the trade; but Carpenter proved to be a too formidable 
competitor, and the Briggs store was compelled to close in 


The following year it w^as re-opened by Benjamin Sher- 
man, who continued the business about a year, when the 
doors was again closed. The store remained closed about 
a year, when the doors were again opened by a Mr. Whit- 
taker; but Carpenter's shrewdness and business tact 
compelled him to abandon the field before the year had 
expired. This was the last effort made to maintain a 
store at the old stand. Three or four other attempts were 
made, at different times and places, to establish a grocery 
store in opposition to Luther Carpenter, but all met with 
indifferent success. 

Eventually the increasing population and the business 
interests of the village demanded a competing store and 
January 12th, 1886, Albert H. Clark established a grocery 
store in a building known as Masonic Hall building. 
No. 2001-2003 Smith street. On account of failing health 


he retired from business, March i, 1891, selling out to 
Charles J. Hawkins & Co., who was succeeded, April 18, 
1892, by Charles H. Kcilty and Patrick H. McAleer, under 
the firm name of C. H. Keilty & Co. Upon the death 
of Mr. Keilty, INIarch i8th, 1894, his interest was ])ur- 
chased by P. H. IMcAleer. 

From time to time, as the needs of the village seemed to 
require, other stores have been opened. Some have been 
successful, while others have not; 1jut without doubt some 
of these will Ijecome firmly established. 


Early in the year 1840 the United States government 
established a post-oi^hce at the village of Fruit Hill, and 
February 25, 1840, appointed Stanton Belden, postmaster. 
The oftlce was kept at the residence of Air. Belden, at the 
northerly corner of Fruit Hill avenue and Smith street, 
he at that time being proprietor and principal of The Fruit 
Hill Classical Institute, a school in its day standing high 
in the esteem of the people, and receiving the patronage of 
many of the wealthy and infiuential i)e()ple not only of this 
State but elsewhere. 

The post-ofiice remained at Fruit Hill until July 18, 
1849, when it was removed to Centerdale, and Richard 
Briggs was appointed postmaster to succeed Stanton 

Air. Briggs at that time was ]:)ro})rietor of a country 
store at the junction of Waterman avenue and Smith 
street, the place formerly occupied by Luther Carpenter. 
And it was at this place where the Centerdale post-office 
was first located. The Ijuilding was torn down in 1892. 


The office remained at this place until 1854, when James 
Halsey Angell succeeded Richard Briggs as postmaster 
and moved the office a few hundred yards down Smith 
street to the Centerdale Hotel, in rooms especially fitted 
up to receive it. 

In 1858, when Mr. Angell moved from the hotel, the 
office was transferred to the store of Luther Carpenter, 
on Mineral Spring avenue, and Luther Carpenter was 
appointed clerk, or assistant postmaster. Mr. Carpenter 
continued to act in that capacity until 1883, when George 
T. Batchelder, who had long been in the employ of Luther 
Carpenter as clerk, was appointed postmaster. 

The office remained at Carpenter's store until Novem- 
ber, 1893, when Charles H. Keilty succeeded George T. 
Batchelder as postmaster, and the office was moved to 
his store in the Masonic Hall building. No. 2001 Smith 

Postmaster Keilty died March 18, 1894, and the follow- 
ing year his brother, M. M. Keilty, was appointed his 
successor. The office remained at the same place, but 
was under the care of Mr. Keilty 's sister. Miss Jennie E. 
Keilty, who, July 3d, 1905, was appointed his successor. 

The office at Centerdale is rated l^y the government as 
a fourth-class office. For many years it received but one 
mail each day and sent out but one; the outgoing one 
leaving about eight o'clock in the morning, the incoming 
mail arriving about five o'clock in the afternoon. The 
number of mails gradually increased, until now there are 
two incoming and four outgoing mails each day. 

In July, 1893, the office was made a money-order office, 
which proved a great convenience to the people who de- 
sired to send moderate sums through the mails. In July, 


1903, the government established the Centerdale post- 
office a separating office, requiring all mail matter sent 
to and from Providence to Centerdale, Greenville, and 
Harmony to be sent to the Centerdale office and there 
assorted and forwarded to its proper destination. 

It will be interesting to note that in the early days of the 
post-office in Centerdale, and as late as 1856, but few 
letters were enclosed in envelopes, for they at that time 
had not come into general use. Most of the letters were 
folded together and the back edges sealed with a red 
wafer or a bit of sealing-wax. 

Postage need not be prepaid by the sender unless he 
choose to do so; and failing of prepayment, the postage 
would be collected from the receiver, who would be 
charged double rates. 

In the early days of the post-office in this country the 
rates varied according to the distance the letter was 
carried, and were excessively high in comparison with the 
rates charged to-day, as will be seen by the following: 
An ordinary letter carried thirty miles or less, the charge 
was 6^ cents; from thirty to eighty miles, 10 cents; letters 
carried one hundred and fifty miles, 12^ cents; from one 
hundred and fifty up to four hundred miles, i8| cents; and 
for all over four hundred miles, 25 cents was charged. 
But comparatively few domestic letters were carried more 
than four hundred miles, for the middle or far west had 
been but little settled at that time. 

Postage stamps were not required to be affixed to letters 
in those days, as the United States government did not 
issue postage stamps until 1847, ^^cl even then left it 
optional with the sender to use them; their object then 
being to enable the public to mail letters at hours when the 


post-office was closed, and it was some ten years later 
before the government required all letters to be prepaid 
and stamps affixed before the letter could be started on 
its journey. 

The time required in carrying the mails from place to 
place in the early days of post-offices is in strong contrast 
with the lightning-like speed now demanded in the mail 
service. Then the mails were carried on horseback or 
by stage-coaches, and required several days to carry the 
mails from Boston to New York city. They at that time 
were carried by way of Worcester and Springfield, and 
most of the time only two mails a week could be depended 

In 1786 a man by the name of Levi Pease advertised 
to undertake to make the trip from Boston to New York 
with stage-coaches in four days by way of Worcester and 
Springfield, and to deliver two mails a week in the winter 
and three in the summer time, as can be seen by an ad- 
vertisement in the Worcester Gazette of January 5, 1786. 
In order to make this, what in those days was called quick 
time, the passengers carried were limited to four, and the 
line was known as the limited U. S. mail line; and an 
extra charge was made for the privilege of riding on the 
limited line much the same as now is the case with the 
limited fast trains of to-day; the coaches which followed 
the mail-coach would carry as many as could be com- 
fortably or uncomfortably crowded on. 

The advent of the steam cars brought about a radical 
change in the time of transporting the mails to distant 
points. Instead of two mails a week the number has 
doubled many times that each day; while a couple of 
sacks or bags were once sufficient to hold the Boston and 


New York mails twice a week it now requires cars sufficient 
to transport many tons of mail matter several times each 

Wonderful, and almost beyond the comprehension of 
the layman, has been the advancement of mail service of 
the country. It has, nevertheless, all been accomplished 
within the memory of man. 

The War Record. 

THE firing upon Fort Sumter by the confederates, 
April 12, 1 86 1, was the signal for the stars and 
stripes to be flung to the breeze from every housetop 
throughout the loyal States. The assault upon the Amer- 
ican flag caused the most intense excitement to prevail, 
and the patriotic enthusiasm which burst forth on all 
sides completely annihilated all party lines and political 

In response to President Lincoln's call for 75,000 vol- 
unteers to defend Washington, which seemed to be in 
emergent danger, William Sprague, then Governor of 
Rhode Island, offered the services of the State militia, 
and immediately set to work making hasty preparations 
for the departure of a regiment of infantry and a battery 
of light artillery to the nation's capital. 

The office of the merchant was closed, the mechanics 
laid down their tools, and the farmers left their plows in 
the field, all striving to be the first to offer their services 
and, if need be, their lives for the defence of their country. 

The first to be called upon was the Rhode Island De- 
tached Militia, who immediately responded, and Sat- 
urday, April 20, the first detachment of the regiment, 
under the command of Governor Sprague, left Providence 
amidst the greatest enthusiasm of the immense throng 
that crowded the streets of the city to witness their de- 
parture. The church bells were rung, the cannon belched 


forth its thunder, and the cheers of men rent the air, while 
the prayers and the tears of women who bid them god- 
speed and a safe return consecrated the hour that the 
steamer on which the command had embarked left its 

Among those who were first to respond to the call for 
volunteers from Centerdale was James E. Bailey. At the 
time of the opening of hostilities James E. Bailey was the 
village harnessmaker, and was a member of one of the 
independent military companies in Providence, which com- 
posed a part of the First Regiment of Volunteers, holding 
the position of second lieutenant in Company B. After 
reaching Washington he was promoted to first lieutenant 
of the same company, June 4, 1861. He took part in the 
first battle of Bull Run, July 21, and served with honor 
during his three months' service, and returned with the 
regiment, July 28, and was mustered out August 2d, 1861. 

He immediately re-enlisted in the Third Regiment, 
Rhode Island Heavy Artillery, which was then being 
organized. He was given command of Company E, re- 
ceiving his commission as captain, August 27, and was 
promoted to major, January i, 1863. He accompanied the 
regiment on their southern campaign, taking active part 
in the capture of Fort Pulaski, a fort which he afterwards 
commanded. He also was actively engaged in the siege 
of Charlestown, S. C. 

Major Bailey was given command of the left in the 
terril^le siege and capture of Fort Wagner. To give a 
complete military record of IMajor Bailey it would be nec- 
essary to give a review of the entire campaign of the 
Third Regiment of Rhode Island Heavy Artillery with 
which he was actively connected. He was a brave and 


efficient soldier, and popular with his command. He 
served with honor throughout the war and received an 
honorable discharge upon his arrival home after the close 
of the war. 

William F. Allison. 

William F. Allison enlisted as a private, June 6th, 1861, 
in Company B, Second Regiment, Rhode Island Vol- 
unteers, and July 16 was promoted to corporal. He took 
part in all of the battles in which his regiment was en- 
gaged until March 20, 1862, when he was transferred to 
Company B, Second Regiment of United States Cavalry. 
He followed the fortunes of the regiment until his term of 
enlistment expired, June 6, 1864, when he returned home 
and received an honorable discharge. 

He was twice taken prisoner while on picket duty, but 
in both cases was recaptured by the Union forces. He 
took part in nearly all of the great battles in which the 
Army of the Potomac was engaged, including the battle 
of Bull Run, Gettysburg, Cold Harbor, Cedar Mountain, 
Malvern Hill, and the seven days' fight at the battle of 
the Wilderness, and many others. He has an honorable 
record as a soldier, and was always held in high esteem 
as a citizen. 

After his return from the war he resumed work at his 
trade as a carpenter and contractor. In 187 1 he joined 
Prescott Post, G. A. R., Providence, and in 1905 was 
elected Junior Vice Commander, and in 1906 elected 
Senior Vice Commander. 

He took active part in organizing The Centerdale 
Veteran Association, and held the office of commander for 
four years. He was one of the charter members of Roger 


Williams Lodge, No. 32, A. F. & A. M., and is Past 
Master of the lodge. 

Zalmon Augustus Olney. 

Augustus (31ney, as he was generally called, enlisted in 
Company H, Seventh Regiment, Rhode Island Infantry, 
August 16, 1862, and was mustered in September 4, and 
left Providence with the regiment, September 10. He 
followed the fortunes of the regiment throughout the fall 
campaign, and was killed in the battle of Fredericksburg, 
December 13, 1862, while crossing the Rappahannock 
river with the regiment upon pontoon bridges. Although 
his services occupied but a few months, his conduct in the 
camp and upon the battlefield was exemplary. 

George T. Batchelder. 

George T. Batchelder enlisted in Company C, Seventh 
Regiment, Rhode Island Infantry, August 6, 1862, and 
soon after was appointed sergeant. He participated in 
many of the big battles of the war, and was twice wounded, 
once at the battle of Fredericksburg, December 13, 1862, 
and at the battle of Spottsylvania, May i8th, 1864. He 
remained with the regiment until its return at the end of 
the war, and was mustered out June 9th, 1865. After he 
returned from the war he re-entered the employ of Luther 
Carpenter as clerk, a position he had filled for seven years 
before going into the army. After the death of Luther 
Carpenter, in 1886, he became his successor in business. 

George Colwell. 

George Colwell enlisted August 8, 1862, as a private in 
Company K, Seventh Regiment, Rhode Island Infantry. 

The war record. 151 

He served with honor throughout the war. After being 
mustered out he again entered the employ of Nathaniel 
Angell. He afterwards removed to Watchemoket, East 
Providence, and served upon the police force for many 

Randall H. Tallman. 

Randall H. Tallman enlisted as a private, First Rhode 
Island Regiment, Rhode Island Volunteers, in 1861. He 
fought with the regiment at the battle of Bull Run, and 
returned with the regiment at the expiration of the three 
months' service for which they were enlisted. He shortly 
after re-entered the army as a private or special scout to 
General Burnside and remained with him throusfhout the 
war, and served with honor and credit to himself and his 
country. He was a brave and fearless man, and his 
rugged constitution well fitted him physically to withstand 
the exposure and hardships he was often called upon to 
endure in the discharge of his duties as a scout and spy. 
At the close of the war he returned to his home in Center- 
dale and was appointed upon the police force of the town, 
and was promoted to town sergeant, a position he held 
for several years. He died, September 2, 1883, in the 
sixty-ninth year of his age. 

Robert F. Simmons. 

Robert Fitz Simmons enlisted as a private in Company 
E, Third Regiment, Rhode Island Heavy Artillery, August 
2ist, 1 86 1. He was promoted to sergeant, and was with 
the regiment on their Port Royal campaign and took part 
in the siege and capture of Fort Pulaski, Ga. November 
yth, 1863, he was discharged by reason of promotion to 


second lieutenant in the Fourteenth Regiment of Rhode 
Island Heavy Artillery. He, however, resigned his com- 
mission as second lieutenant before he entered upon active 
duty, as he preferred returning to his old regiment, the 
Third Rhode Island Heavy Artillery. After he returned 
from the war he went to Attleboro, Mass., and engaged 
in the manufacture of jewelry, and met with a good degree 
of success, and was held in high esteem by his townsmen. 

Almanzo S. Stone. 

He enlisted as a private in Battery A, First Regiment 
Rhode Island Light Artillery, March 7th, 1864, and was 
transferred to Battery B of the same regiment, August 12, 
1864. He served with credit to himself and his country 
until the close of the war, and was mustered out June 12, 

Washington Irving Tallman. 

Irving Tallman, as he was generally known, enlisted, 
March 7, 1864, as a private in Battery B, First Regiment, 
Rhode Island Light Artillery. While engaged in the 
battle of Reams Station, August 25, 1864, he was taken 
prisoner by the Rebels; he was afterward paroled by 
them, September 25, 1864. He remained with his battery 
until the end of the war, and was mustered out June 12, 

Walter Rourke. 

Walter Rourke enlisted as a musician (fifer) in Com- 
pany A, Fourth Regiment, Rhode Island Volunteers, 
October 30, 1861. After serving three years, the term of 


his enlistment, he re-enlisted in the same regiment, as a 
veteran volunteer, in August, 1864. After his re-enlist- 
ment he served as a nurse in the hospital to October, 1864, 
when he was put on detached service at City Point, Va., 
in the General Hospital, and remained there until Feb- 
ruary, 1865, when he was transferred to Company G, 
Seventh Regiment, Rhode Island Volunteers, and was 
mustered out July 13, 1865. 

George H. Remington. 

George H. Remington enlisted as a private in Company 
I, Eleventh Regiment, Rhode Island Volunteers, Sep- 
tember 23d, 1862, serving nine months, the term for which 
the regiment was enlisted, and was mustered out July 13, 

Company A, Fifth Regiment, R. I. M. 

As a precautionary measure against an invasion of the 
northern States by the Confederate army, the enrollment 
and organizing of the State militia was ordered; and in 
pursuance of that order a company of infantry was organ- 
ized in Centerdale in May, 1863. There being no suitable 
place in the village for an armory or drill hall, Mr. James 
Halsey Angell purchased the old church building, which 
had for many years been closed for public worship, and 
remodeled the interior to meet the requirements of the 
company for an armory. The company numbered eighty 
members, and was designated as Company A, Fifth Regi- 
ment of Infantry, in the Fourth Brigade of Rhode Island 
Militia. They held weekly meetings for drill and practice 
in the manual of arms. At the general muster of the 
regiment, held at Pawtucket, December i, 1863, the 


company had the right of the line and received many 
compHments for their soldierly appearance and proficiency 
in manaaivers. The following is a roster and list of the 
members of the company: 

Roll of the Company. 

Captain Charles E. Hall. 

First Lieutenant Benjamin Sweet. 

Second Lieutenant James A. INLithewson. 


George F. Angell ist Sergeant. 

William Brayman 2d Sergeant. 

Jarvis Smith 3d Sergeant. 

Edwin W. White 4th Sergeant. 

Samuel N. Budlong 5th Sergeant. 


Philip Salisbury ist Corporal. 

Joel Corbin 2d Corporal. 

George H. Higgins 3d Corporal. 

George F. StoUard 4th Corporal. 

William Phetteplace 5th Corporal. 

Frederick M. Aldrich 6th Corpoial. 

Willard Pearce 7th Corporal. 

Henry Pearce 8th Coqioral. 


Cornelius M. Capron. 


Angell, Sayles H. Adams, Jolm Q- 

Angell, William, Billington, James R. 

Angell, Andrew J. Bicknell, William A. 

Angell, W. Brown, Henry F. 



Barnes, Jonathan, 
Britton, Sylvester O. 
Brown, Henry M. 
Barnes, John \V. 
Capron, Edwin A. 
Capron, George W. 
Cozzens, John R. 
CoUins, James C. 
Colhns, Henry, 
Colhns, Daniel S. 
Dawley, James V., Jr. 
Dawley, Benjamin G. 
Davis, Jonathan, 
Eldridge, Thaddeus S. 
Gazlay, William, 
Gardner, Joseph O. 
Greene, Charles E. 
Gould, Sullivan W. 
Gould, Lewis, 
Harrington, Alexander W. 
Higgins, Joseph, 
Hall, Henry J. 
Hunt, Horace, 
Jencks, George N. 
James, Peleg A. 
King, Stephen, 
Kinnecom, William. 
Kinnecom, Edward, 

Lapham, J. H. P. 
Mathewson, Henry N. 
Mathewson, Jerome, 
Mathewson, Daniel W 
Mathewson, Martin, 
McCavert, James, 
Olney, Barton J. 
Potter, Albert H. 
Robertson, Argraves, 
Sweet, Ephraim A. 
Sweet, William M. 
Sweet, Seriel A. 
Stone, Almanzo S. 
Sweet, Albert F. 
Sweet, Andrew B. 
Sweet, Joseph W. 
Sweet, Emor W. 
Stone, George W. 
Searle, Edwin P. 
Sweet, Welcome, 
Sweet, Edwin A. 
Tallman, Irving W. 
Turner, Harrison J. 
Waldren, Lewis, 
Walker, Charles P. 
Whipple, Benonia, 
Wilbur, Charles. 

The War with Spain. 

The destruction of the U. S. Battleship " Maine," Feb- 
ruary 15, 1898, in Havana harbor, was followed by events 
which ultimately caused President jNIcKinley to issue his 
proclamation declaring that war did really exist between 
the United States and Spain, and calling for 125,000 
volunteers to defend the honor of the country and the 
cause of justice and humanity in Cuba. 


The call for volunteers met with a hearty response from 
all sections of the country. Among those who responded 
from Centerdale were: 

John P. Geelin, 

Who enlisted as a private in Company I, Twelfth Regi- 
ment, United States Volunteers, and accompanied the 
regiment on their campaign in Cuba. He was slightly 
wounded in the battle of Santiago. After the end of 
hostilities in Cuba he returned with the regiment and 
re-enlisted in Company L, Twenty-sixth Regiment, United 
States Volunteers, and proceeded with the regiment to the 
Philippine Islands. At the expiration of his term of 
enlistment he returned to his home in Centerdale. He 
was a brave and fearless soldier; and while serving in 
the Philippines it frequently became necessary to call for 
volunteers to go upon some especially dangerous recon- 
noissance, and upon these occasions John P. Geelin was 
always among the first to volunteer to go, regardless of 
how dangerous the expedition might be. 

Lewis E. Foster. 

In response to a call for volunteers, Lewis E. Foster 
enlisted as a private in Company A, Forty-sixth Regiment, 
United States Volunteers, in 1899. He accompanied the 
regiment to the Philippine Islands, and saw^ considerable 
active service while there. Here he remained until the 
expiration of his term of enlistment, and returned home and 
was mustered out in 1901. After remaining home for 
about three months he again enlisted in Company C, 
Fifty-sixth Regiment of United States Infantry, and went 


with his regiment to the Island of Puerto Rico, and else- 
where, and after serving three years with the Fifty-sixth 
he returned home and was mustered out in the summer of 

After a three months' visit to his home he again enlisted 
in Company D, Twenty-first United States Infantry, and 
was stationed at Fort Snelling, St. Paul, Minn. Here he 
was transferred to Company C, First United States In- 
fantry, September 20, 1906, he preferring to go to Manila, 
P. I., where the First Regiment had been ordered, than 
to remain with the Twenty-first, who were ordered to 
Colorado; this being his second trip to the Philippine 
Islands. He remained until his third term of enlistment 
expired, in October, 1907. That he is a brave and honor- 
able soldier is fully attested by his nine years of continued 
service in the United States army. 

John W. Wallace. 

John W. Wallace enlisted as a landsman in the United 
States Navy, February 2, 1900, and was assigned to the 
U. S. Cruiser "Newark." He remained on the ''New- 
ark" about eight months, when he was transferred to the 
first-class cruiser "Brooklyn," and was ordered to the 
Philippine Islands. After cruising around the islands 
eight months, the "Brooklyn" was ordered to China 
during the "Boxer" uprising. Here he remained about 
two years, calling at many of the ports of China. While 
he was at Shanghai he was transferred to the gunboat 
"Wilmington," January nth, 1902. He remained upon 
the "Wilmington" until the term of his enlistment ex- 
pired, and returned home by way of San Francisco, and 
was honorably discharged March 22d, 1904. Although 


he was in no naval engagement during his time of service, 
he holds an honorable record as a marksman with small 
arms, ranking very good to excellent; conduct and 
sobriety receiving a mark of five, or excellent, the highest 
point obtainable. 

Frederick M. Barnes, John Larkin, George H. 


Frederick M. Barnes and John Larkin enlisted as 
privates in Battery A, and George H. Hill in Battery B, 
First Regiment, Light Artillery, Rhode Island Volunteers, 
June 6th, 1898, and soon after entered camp duty at 
Quonset Point, R. I. 

The destruction of the Spanish fleet off Santiago by 
Admiral Schley and the subsequent victories by the 
United States troops on land soon brought an end to 
hostilities in Cuba, and caused the United States Govern- 
ment to discontinue forwarding additional troops to the 
island; in consequence of which the First Light Artillery 
Regiment was ordered disbanded, and October 26, 1898, 
was mustered out, much to the disappointment of the 
officers and men, many of whom had, from patriotic 
motives, sacrificed good positions in civil life to enter 
into the service of their country. 

George H. Sweet. 

George H. Sweet enlisted in the United States Navy, 
June 24, 1898, and was assigned to the LTnited States 
receiving ship "Constellation," stationed at Newport, 
R. L, the old "Man-of-War" being at that time used as a 
training ship for the United States Navy. He remained 
there until the end of the war or until August 27, 1898, 
when he was honorably discharged. 



A. W. Harrington, F. C. Angell, M. M. Joslin. 

IN the summer of 1868 Frank C. Angell, ]\Iarcus M. 
Joslin, and Alexander W. Harrington initiated the 
movement to establish a free public library in Centerdale. 
At that time Centerdale was a small country village of 
less than 200 inhabitants, and somewhat isolated from 
Providence and other large towns where the advantages 
of the public library were enjoyed. There were no means 
of communication with Providence excepting by the slow 
and cumbersome stage-coach, which made but two or 
three trips each day; for the locomotive engine had not 
then penetrated the Woonasquatucket valley, nor were 
the swift and mysteriously moving electric cars known at 
that time. Under these conditions but few could spare 
the time or afford the expense of a journey to Providence 
for the much coveted book. 


At first the project of establishing a public library, even 
upon a small scale, in Centerdale seemed like too great 
an undertaking for them to carry through successfully, 
they being at that time young mechanics working in one 
of the workshops of the village for daily pay, and realiz- 
ing that there were no men of wealth in the community 
to come forward and aid them in their undertaking; so 
whatever was done must be accomplished by their own 
efforts. It did not take long to interest the young people 
in the movement. An informal meeting was called to 
consider the matter and devise some way of providing the 
money for the undertaking. 

By general assent the three promoters were considered 
a committee to inaugurate the movement, and decided 
to appeal to the public, through a series of local entertain- 
ments, to raise the first installment of one hundred dollars 
toward the two hundred which they hoped to be able to 
secure with which to purchase the books for a nucleus or 
foundation for the library. The question of a building, 
or room, to contain them had not then been considered. 

The drama selected for the initial performance was 
entitled "All is not Gold that Glitters." A fac-simile of 
the programme is here given with the cast of charac- 

The first entertainment was given in Armory hall, 
October 31st, 1868, and passed off very successfully. The 
attendance was not large, but the workers were not dis- 
couraged, and gave a second representation of the drama, 
November 28th. This was followed by other entertain- 
ments of like character, until, February, 1869, after work- 
ing for four months, they succeeded in raising their first 
installment of one hundred dollars. 

Grand Exhibition 

Armory Hall, Centredale, 
Saturday Eve'g, Oct. 31. 

The public are respectfully invited to attend an Exhibition ag 
above, where will be performed the comic Drama, entitled 

All is not Gold 

That Glitters ! 

Jasper Plum Mr. J. Marsh 

Stephen Plum, A. VV. Harrington 

Freiieiic Plum, F. C. AugeU 

Toby Twinkle, M. M. JtsHu 

Sir Arthur Lovelle, H. J. Turner 

Harris, ...Mr. J. Nichols 

Lady Valeria Miss A. F. Wcstcott 

Lady Leatherbridge, Miss. S. Lapham 

Martha Gibbs, Miss I. M. Burlingame 

SONGS, by . , C. £. TUTLQW. 

To be followed by the side splitting farce, entitled 

Mr. MarmaduKe Mouser, Mr. J. Marsh 

Mr. Crumiiy, . . . .M. M. Joslin 

Mrs. Crumu}' Miss L M. Burlingame 

Betsey Baker Miss A. F. Westcott 

The whole to conclude, with Celebrated 

c L (> a 13 A- :n C E 

By C. E. Tutlow. 

i icliets. _ - - ?*43 Cents. 

Cliildreii, - - - 1^ 

Doors open at a quarter to 7 o'clock. 

Perl or mance to commence at 7.30 o'clock 

An Orchestra will enliven the occasion under the leadership 
of Mr. .James Olney. 

The pvoceeJs to be devoted to the raising of a Public Library 
for the village of Centredale. 

A. Crawford Grceue, rnmcr, Eallroad f.all, Provldeuce, E. I. 


A subscription paper, dated February 9, 1869, was now 
prepared, and the hard-earned hundred dollars was placed 
at the head of the paper. Various sums, ranging from 
one dollar upwards, were subscribed, and in due time 
four hundred dollars were secured, which was double the 
amount they at first anticipated. 

The magic key seemed to have been touched, for the 
public, generally, now were alive with interest for the 
success of the library. 

April 2ist, 1869, a meeting was called inviting all people 
interested in the movement to assemble at the schoolhouse ; 
the object being to form a society, or organization, to carry 
on the work in a business-like and systematic manner. 
The work thus far had been done informally by the young 
people connected with the dramatic club, but now that 
the establishment of the library was assured it seemed a 
proper time to perfect a permanent organization. At 
eight o'clock the meeting was called to order, and John 
Marsh was elected chairman and Frank C. Angell, sec- 
retary; the chairman stated the object of the meeting, 
giving a brief account of the work accomplished thus far, 
and spoke encouragingly of the future of the library. 
Various committees were appointed to attend to and 
prepare the preliminaries attendant to the permanent 
organization. This was but one of the many meetings 
held by the society before the permanent organization 
was perfected. May 13th, 1869, the constitution and 
by-laws were adopted, and at this meeting it was voted that 
hereafter the society should be called by the name of 
"The Union Library Association." 

After the adoption of the by-laws, the following were 
elected as the first officers of the association: President, 


John C. Budlong; Vice-Presidents, Alexander W. Har- 
rington, John Marsh, James C. ColHns, and Harrison J. 
Turner; Treasurer, George W. Remington; Secretary, 
Frank C. Angell; Corresponding Secretary, Alexander W. 
Harrington; Librarian, Frank C. Angell; Directors, 
John C. Budlong, George T. Batchelder, Benjamin 
Sweet, Marcus M. Joslin, Israel B. Phillips, John Marsh, 
George W. Remington. 

The library association being now duly organized, and 
with a balance of four hundred dollars in the treasury, 
the pioneers in the work might well feel proud of what 
had been accomplished. The older and more influential 
citizens had now become interested in the movement to 
establish the library, and with their encouragement it 
was determined to continue the work until a sum sufficient 
had been secured to provide a suitable building to contain 
the books. 

The fourth of July, the anniversary of American in- 
dependence, was approaching, and it was decided to im- 
prove the opportunity and observe the day in a manner 
befitting the glorious occasion, and by combining patriot- 
ism with the laudable desire to promote intelligence and 
the public good, they would make this the occasion for 
increasing the library fund; and certainly no two objects 
could more appropriately be combined. 

Under the direction of various committees, the prepara- 
tions for the celebration progressed rapidly, and soon the 
village began to assume a gala day appearance. A 
mammoth awning was erected upon the village common, a 
platform built for the band and orators of the day, the 
old liberty pole, which had failed to do duty for several 
years on account of being disabled, was put in condition 


to hold aloft the glorious emblem of American independ- 

In due time all of the details of the arrangements were 
completed, and all anxiously waited the dawn of the com- 
ing day. Suddenly the booming of the artillery and the 
ringing of bells resounded through the valley, proclaiming 
to the people that the anniversary of the nation's birthday 
had dawned, and calling upon them to assemble and 
celebrate the day as only true patriotic Americans can do. 
It seemed as though God was pleased to smile upon their 
efforts, for a more beautiful day could not be desired. 
It would be a difficult task to describe the enthusiasm that 
was awakened or the pleasure enjoyed by all who par- 
ticipated in the celebration that day. 

During the evening a display of fireworks enlivened the 
scene and closed the festivities of the day. Everything 
passed off in the happiest possible manner, making the 
event a complete success. 

The success of the celebration increased the library 
fund sufficiently to warrant some steps being taken towards 
erecting a library building. A desirable site on Mineral 
wSpring avenue was obtained on a ninety-nine years lease, 
and plans were drawn for a building, of wood, 20 x 26 
feet, and one story in height. The contract for erecting 
the building was awarded to Messrs. Brown & Sweet, 
contractors, for eight hundred dollars, and in March, 
1870, ground was broken for the foundation. Although 
the building was small, it provided ample accommoda- 
tions for the books at that time. 

The laws of Rhode Island at that time provided that 
all companies or societies desiring to hold real or mixed 
property in the name of the company or society, and 

Union library. 105 

receive the protection of the laws of the State, should 
petition and receive from the General Assembly a charter, 
or act of incorporation. 

At the January session of the legislature, in 1870, the 
Hon. James C. Collins, a representative to the Assembly 
from North Providence, presented a petition requesting 
that an act of incorporation be granted to the Union 
Library Association of Centerdale. The petition was 
duly granted at the same session, and the Union Library 
Association was now a legally constituted organization, 
and under its charter was empowered to have and use a 
common seal, and to have, hold, and convey real and 
personal property to an amount not exceeding ten 
thousand dollars. 

The members of the library society might well feel 
congratulated upon the results of their labors; they had 
succeeded in erecting the library building, had about four 
hundred dollars in money with which to purchase books, 
and had become a chartered corporation under the laws 
of the State. 

It must not be supposed that the ladies had been idle 
all this time. In July, 1869, in response to invitations 
extended, the ladies assembled at the residence of JNIrs. 
Nathaniel xA.ngell and organized the Ladies' Union Sewing 
Society. Weekly sessions were held, and their skillful 
hands soon fashioned many useful and fancy articles. 
A sale, or fair, as it was called, was held in Armory hall, 
under their auspices, December 24 and 25, 1869. The 
fair was a success and netted a handsome sum. 

After the completion of the library building, the ladies 
of the sewing society requested that they be allowed the 
pleasure of furnishing the library room. Of course this 



was readily granted, and under their direction the room 
began to take on a neat and attractive appearance. The 
walls were tastefully decorated, the floor was neatly 
carpeted, comfortable chairs and tables were provided; 
also ample provisions were made for heating and lighting. 
It was now decided to formally open and dedicate the 
library upon the fourth of July, which was near at hand, 
at which time it was proposed to hold another celebration 
like the one held the year before. It is sufficient to say 
that the second celebration was as successful as its prede- 


Union Library. 

At 12 o'clock noon, July 4th, 1870, the door of the 
library was thrown open to the public. The librarian, 
Frank C. Angell, received the visitors informally during 
the afternoon and evening. Upon the shelves were 350 
volumes, all neatly covered and numbered; the appear- 


ance of the room received many pleasant commendations 
from the visitors. 

The Hbrary now being formally dedicated, it was de- 
cided to open the room for delivering the books every 
Tuesday and Saturday evenings from seven until nine 

At the time of the opening of the library it was thought 
not advisable to make it a free library, in the strict sense 
of the word, until some means were provided for its main- 
tenance, but free to all members of the Union Library 
Association and the Ladies' Union Sewing Society; this 
virtually including nearly all of the people of the village. 
But the association desired to extend its privileges to 
others who might reside here at a future time and all others 
who lived within a radius of three miles; to all such people 
a charge of six cents per week was made; but the desires 
and hopes of the association were that at no distant day 
it might be made free to all, and in this they were not 

April 15th, 1875, a free library act was passed by the 
General Assembly, giving authority to the cities and towns 
of the State to appropriate money, under certain restric- 
tions, to establish free public libraries. The State Board of 
Education at the same time was authorized to pay for such 
books as might be approved by them for such libraries. 
The amount apportioned to each library varied according 
to the number of volumes they contained. Fifty dollars 
was allowed the first 500 volumes in the library, and 
twenty-five dollars for every additional 500 volumes; but 
the limit of any library was five hundred dollars a year. 
Any town establishing or accepting a free public library 
was required to appropriate for its use at least as much 


as the amount received from the State. Without doubt 
this legislation encouraged the establishment of many 
public libraries throughout the State. 

The Union Library Association now saw an opportunity 
to carry out the original and long-cherished plan of making 
it a free library, and at a meeting of the association held 
February 17th, 1877, it was voted to make and declare 
Union Library a free public library; and an application 
was made to the State Board of Education for the privileges 
allowed by the act. The library since that time has grad- 
ually increased in the number of volumes, until now it 
contains about 5,000 volumes. 

It has always been under the care of Frank C. x^ngell, 
who has served as librarian from its opening day, in 1870, 
until the present time (1909), excepting two years, 187 1 
and 1872, a total of thirty-seven years. The library at the 
present time is in a flourishing condition, and well deserves 
the support it receives from the State and the town. 


Fraternal Orders and Musical Organizations. 


THE origin of Roger Williams Lodge, No. 32, of 
Ancient, Free, and Accepted Masons was largely due 
to a desire of the members of the fra- 
ternity living in and around Center- 
dale for better accommodations in the 
matter of Masonic privileges, where- 
by they might more fully enjoy the 
benefits of fraternal brotherhood and 
promote a more mutual acquaintance 
and social intercourse with the breth- 

At the time of the formation of 
Roger Williams Lodge there were 
about thirty members of the order residing in or within a 
convenient distance of Centerdale, belonging to different 
lodges throughout the State who were obliged to travel 
many miles over country roads to attend a meeting of their 
home lodge. 

By mutual agreement those interested assembled at the 
Union Library rooms on the evening of September 15th, 
1875, to consider the advisability of forming a new lodge 
to be located in Centerdale. The meeting was well at- 
tended, and James H. Angell, a member of Temple Lodge, 
No. 18, was asked to preside; and Frank C. Angell, also 


of Temple Lodge, was chosen secretary. The object 
of the meeting was briefly stated by the chairman, and 
after considering the expediency of forming a new lodge 
a committee was appointed to obtain information in regard 
to methods of procedure in such cases. Other meetings 
were held at the same place during the succeeding months, 
to hear the report of the committee and to perfect the 
work of organization. 

At a meeting held December 27, 1875, the subject of a 
name for the proposed lodge was considered. Various 
names were suggested: among them was the name of 
Roger Williams, proposed by James H. Angell, and after 
some discussion it was decided to name the new lodge 
Roger Williams Lodge. 

A petition signed by twenty-six Master Masons, and 
recommended by Temple Lodge, No. 18, of Greenville, 
was presented to Most Worshipful Nicholas Van Slyck, 
Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Rhode Island, asking 
permission to open a Lodge, under dispensation, in Cen- 
terdale. The dispensation was granted under date of 
January 27, 1876, the Grand Master appointing Thomas 
Wilmarth, Worshipful Master; Alexander W. Harrington, 
Senior Warden ; and Charles P. Walker, Junior Warden, 
to serve until the lodge was duly constituted. 

The first meeting of the Roger Williams Lodge, under 
dispensation, was held in Railroad Hall building, March 
4, 1876. At this meeting James Halsey Angell was ap- 
pointed Treasurer; Frank C. Angell, Secretary; Rufus 
W. Harris, Senior Deacon; A. Jarvis Smith, Junior 
Deacon; George F. Angell, Senior Steward; William F. 
Allison, Junior Steward; George E. Olney, Chaplain; 
James V. Dawley, Marshal; George W. Capron, Musical 


Director; and x\sel S. Angell, Tyler; these being the 
first officers of the new organization. 

At the annual communication of the Grand Lodge held 
May 15th, 1876, a petition for a charter was presented, 
and after due consideration was granted; and upon the 
twenty-seventh day of May, 1876, The Most Worshipful 
Grand Master Nicholas Van Slyck, assisted by the officers 
of the Grand Lodge, duly constituted Roger Williams 
Lodge, No. 32, in ample form, with all the rights and 
privileges of a subordinate lodge of the jurisdiction of 
Rhode Island. An address appropriate to the occasion 
was delivered by Judge George M. Carpenter, of the 
Supreme Court of Rhode Island, who was also a member 
of the Grand Lodge. 

After the impressive ceremonies of constitution the fol- 
lowing were elected as the first officers of Roger Williams 
Lodge, No. 32, A. F. & A. M: Thomas Wilmarth, Wor- 
shipful Master; Alexander W. Harrington, Senior Warden, 
Charles P. Walker, Junior Warden ; James Halsey Angell, 
Treasurer; Frank C. Angell, Secretary; George E. Olney, 
Chaplain; Rufus W. Harris, Senior Deacon; A. Jarvis 
Smith, Junior Deacon; George F. Angell, Senior Steward; 
William F.Allison, Junior Steward; James V. Dawley, 
Marshal; Daniel O. Angell, Sentinel; Asel S. Angell, 

It is worthy of note at this time to observe that Frank 
C. Angell, who was chosen secretary at the first preliminary 
meeting of the organization, was appointed secretary while 
the lodge was under dispensation, and under the charter 
has held the office continuously to the present time, 1909, 
making a continuous service as secretary for over thirty- 
three years. 


The lodge held their meetings in a small hall in Railroad 
Hall building until October, 1885, when they moved to 
rooms especially arranged for them in Angell block. No. 
2005 Smith street, where they are now located The 
lodge at the present time numbers 112 members and is in 
a flourishing condition. 


In 1870 the wave of temperance reform agitated the 
country throughout its length and breadth, stirring the 
cities and country towns to a furore of temperance ex- 
citement to an extent never known before in the country's 
history. Meetings and rallies were held in all of the 
village halls, encouraging the organizing of temperance 
societies and lodges to carry on the temperance work. Cen- 
terdale, like the neighboring villages, was caught in the 
swirl of the reform wave, and soon public sentiment was 
enlisted in the popular reform movement. 

In April, 1871, the Woonasquatucket Lodge, No. 53, 
of the Independent Order of Good Templars was organ- 
ized, and soon upwards of 200 members were enrolled. 
Armory Hall was secured and transformed into a com- 
modious lodge room, and great enthusiasm was mani- 
fested on all sides, and Woonasquatucket Lodge, No. 53, 
received the high honor of being the banner lodge of the 
State in the good work it accomplished and its perfection 
in the ritual work. 

The lodge continued to prosper and succeed in the 
work of temperance reform they had undertaken; and 
without doubt succeeded in alleviating temporarily, if not 
in all cases permanently, the evils of intemperance. But 


like most reformatory movements that depend somewhat 
upon constant agitation and exciting of the pubhc mind, 
the interest began to subside, and, not unhke the returning 
tide, the wave of temperance reform began to ebb, and 
gradually the members began to withdraw from active 
w^ork, and ere long the lodge was obliged to resort to the 
inevitable; and in the summer of 1877 the Woonasqua- 
tucket Lodge, I. O. of G. T., once the banner lodge of 
the State, surrendered its charter to the Grand Lodge 
and rested from its good work. 

The Temple of Honor. 

Soon after the formation of Woonasquatucket Lodge 
of Good Templars a lodge of the order of the Temple of 
Honor was organized. This, too, was also a temperance 
order, but, unlike the Good Templars, only admitted 
male members over eighteen years of age. 

The Temple was instituted August 3d, 1871, under the 
name of Enterprise Temple, No. 26, with thirty-five charter 
members ; the following being the first officers : Charles 
P. Walker, Worthy Chief Templar; Arnold Hawkins, 
Worthy Vice Templar; Frank C. Angell, Worthy Re- 
corder; Moses Claflin, Worthy Assistant Recorder; 
George F. Angell, Worthy Financial Recorder; George 
G. Cozzens, W^orthy Treasurer; George W. Gould, 
Worthy Chaplain; Marcus M. Joslin, Worthy Usher; 
Charles J. Hawkins, Worthy Deputy Usher; Wihiam 
Smith, Worthy Guardian; A.sel S. Angell, Worthy 

They, like the Good Templars, held their meetings in 
Armory hall and enjoyed several years of prosperity, and 


numbered about 150 members. The meetings were 
always well attended and considerable fraternal interest 
manifested. They were often the recipient of many 
fraternal visits from neighboring Temples from Provi- 
dence and other places, who would always come in a body, 
and the return visits were always hailed as occasions of 
much interest, for Enterprise Temple was particularly 
strong in literary and musical talent, making visits 
especially enjoyable. 

But as the interest in the temperance reform movement 
subsided the interest in the Temple began to wane, and, 
like the Good Templars, it was obliged to submit to the 
inevitable, and in June, 1879, surrendered its charter to 
the Grand Temple. 

But in justice to the two reformatory orders it must be 
admitted that they did not labor in vain, that their efforts 
did carry joy and sunshine into many desolate homes and 
left a permanent impression of good upon the community. 

Musical Organizations. 

The first musical organization in Centerdale was the 
Centerdale Cornet Band, which was organized ^lay 6th, 
1 86 1. Unless the village choir is taken into consideration, 
in the early days of the church in this place, the church 
organ was but little known in country churches. Here 
the music was furnished by two violins, a bass-viol, flute, 
and clarionet, and a little later a small melodeon was added. 
This was many years after the time when the church 
people denounced and declared the violin an instrument 
of the devil, and to play upon one, or on any musical in- 
strument, during church service would be positively sacri- 


legious; the singing always being done without musical 

Soon after the breaking out of the Civil War, in 1861, 
martial music was heard throughout the land. Nearly all 
of the country towns and villages, to show their patriotism, 
proceeded to organize a military company or a brass band. 
Accordingly, on the evening of May 6th, 1861, those in-" 
terested in music assembled in the hall of the Centerdale 
hotel and organized the Centerdale Cornet Band, con- 
sisting of fifteen members, as follows : Edward Reynolds, 
John Widup, Thomas Whitworth, George G. Cozzens, 
George F. Angell, Albert Mowry, Bela Edwards, Henry 
Hunt, Edwin A. Capron, Albert F. Gleason, James 
Barnes, Daniel H. Capron, Charles Hudson, Cornelius 
M. Capron, and Charles Thornton. Edward Reynolds 
was elected leader, and John Widup, assistant leader. 
Gideon Goodspeed, a noted bandmaster, was secured as 
instructor; and in due time the band was able to render 
music in a very creditable manner. The band continued 
its organization until 1864 when, from various reasons, 
principally that so many of the members had moved to 
distant localities, it was decided to disband the organiza- 


The Young American Band was organized in August, 
1884, through the efforts of Frank C. Angell and George 
A. Cozzens. Less than a dozen members were counted 
in its membership at the time of organization, but before 
many weeks it was augmented to twenty-five members, 
and Frank C. Angell was elected leader. The band 
differed from most bands in that it used but few brass 


instruments, and was generally known as a flute and 
drum band; the instrumentation being as follows: 12 
flutes (or fifes), 3 clarionets, i saxophone, 3 cornets, 4 snare 
drums, bass drum, and cymbals. At the time of its organ- 
ization this style of band was very popular with the public, 
especially for street music, always attracting much atten- 
tion and favorable comment. They continued under the 
leadership of Mr. Angell until September i6th, 1886, 
when George A. Cozzens was elected leader, Mr. Angell 
declining a unanimous re-election, but he still remained an 
active member of the band. 

Under the leadership of Mr. Cozzens the band continued 
to prosper, and enjoyed the public favor to a greater extent 
than any similar organization for many miles around. 
They gave many complimentary evening concerts and 
street parades in the town ; the line of march being always 
illuminated in their honor. Their band room was located 
in the basement of Armory Hall building, and was com- 
fortably furnished and well suited to their use. At the 
height of their prosperity they sustained a serious loss 
by the destruction of Armory Hall by fire on the night of 
February 6, 1892; they losing many of their instruments, 
uniforms, and band equipments. There being no in- 
surance upon them, the loss was a serious one for the 
organization. Somewhat disheartened, they engaged an- 
other band room, and endeavored to revive the interest 
in the disheartened ones. The organization was kept 
along with some effort, but finally disbanded in the 
summer of 1894. 


\'arious Industries. 



IN olden times the drug store (or apothecary shop, as 
it was then called) was found only in cities or large 
towns. People living remote from large communities 
were obliged, when sick, to depend upon home remedies 
for relief, made from the herbs, roots, and barks that grew 
in the woods and fields around their homes. 

Should you have climbed to the attic of one of those old 
country homes, you would have found suspended from the 
beams and rafters large bunches of herbs, and bags con- 
taining dried flowers, roots, and barks of many kinds, all 
gathered in their proper season, and carefully dried and 
stored away for future use in time of need. 

To be able to name them all would require a better 
botanical education than the average person of to-day is 
likely to possess; but to the country people of those days 
their names were as familiar as the names of the trees 
about their door-yard. 

The services of a doctor were seldom called for unless 
the illness assumed a serious stage, and then, perhaps, he 
would prescribe the use of some of the contents of the 
attic. But the changed condition of the country incident 
to the rapid increase of the population, and the advance- 


ment made by science in the treatment of diseases and 
tlie com})ounding of the remedies, called for more con- 
venient and skillful methods than the home dispensary 

These conditions eventually opened a wider field for 
the druggist, and ere long, in many of the small country 
towns, could be found the store of the registered phar- 
macist. The firs to establish a drug store in Centerdale 
was Nicholas F. Reiner, in a building near the junction of 
Woonasquatucket avenue and Smith street, on the thirtieth 
day of May, 1896. Mr. Reiner was a graduate of the 
New York College of Pharmacy and had several years of 
practical experience in some of the leading drug stores 
of Providence. The store was well appointed, and its con- 
venience to the community was soon apparent, and the new 
business became firmly established. In a few years he 
required more commodious apartments, and July 4, 1901, 
he moved into a new building he had erected at No. 2030- 
2032 Smith street. In September, 1906, he sold the 
business to John E. McKenna, he having previously 
purchased a drug store at No. i Westminster street, 


In 1843 George U. Wright and William Gedney entered 
into a copartnership for the manufacture of gold and 
silver-bowed spectacles. They leased a building which 
then stood on what is now Steere street. They made 
solid gold and silver goods only, and in those days the 
greater part of the work was done by hand. The gold 
or silver came in bars, but often coin was melted down in 
crucibles placed in a furnace built for the purpose, and 


molded into the different forms or drawn into wire for use, 
as the special work might require. 

It called for no little skill on the part of the workman 
to produce the finished job, when every part, from the 
little hinges in the bow to the frames for the lenses, had to 
be fashioned from the crude metal. The lenses also had 
to be cut and ground to fit the frames. 

In 1847 Messrs. Wright and Gedney sold out to William 
W. Wright, a brother of the senior member of the firm, 
who secured the services of William N. Allison, of New 
York, an expert workman in gold and silver, especially 
in the manufacture of spectacles. Wihiam W. Wright 
continued the business until 1855, when the business was 


In 1853 Ezekiel Smith leased a building from Joseph 
Cunlift", near the site of the old saw-mill, with the privilege 
of using the water from the pond of the Centerdale mill, 
for the manufacturer of carpenters' planes of all kinds. 
The power for running the saw and other machinery was 
generated by a small turbine water-wheel which was placed 
under the mill. This wheel was rather a crude afi^air 
when compared with the powerful turbines in use to-day. 
It may not be generally known that this was the first 
turbine water-wheel operated on the Woonasquatucket 
river, and attracted considerable attention. 

The planes made by Ezekiel Smith, which included 
nearly all of the different varieties, were considered the 
standard plane, and much sought for by woodworkers in 
all departments. 


In 1854 the business was removed to some other locahty, 
where and for what reason is impossible to determine at 
this time, but it is the opinion of the writer that it was 
removed to Pawtucket or Central Falls, R. I. 


In the early days of the village, when the population 
was small and the farmers made up the majority of the 
resident people, deaths were comparatively infrequent 
and the services of an undertaker not often rec|uired ; con- 
sequently a professional undertaker was seldom found in 
the rural districts. 

If a person died, a neighboring carpenter, or the wheel- 
wright, was called upon to make the box, or coffin ; and as 
no supply was kept on hand, they must be made after 
the person died; thus the time was necessarily limited, 
and little time could be given to the making of an elaborate 
casket like what is now used, although it might be within 
the skill of the workman to do so. 

A plain pine box, or coffin, with a coat of red stain, and, 
if the time was sufficient, a coat of varnish, was all that 
could be given or was expected. The clergyman would 
sometimes act as undertaker at the funeral, but more 
often some prominent neighbor or personal friend would 

Just who the carpenter was that furnished the coffins 
when needed previous to the year 1830 is at the present 
time unknown. In 1830, when William Sweet established 
the first wheelwright shop in Centerdale, he was occa- 
sionally called upon to furnish the coffin and officiate as 
undertaker when a person died in the neighborhood. He 


continued in the business until 1845, when he disposed 
of the wheelwright shop to Caleb Y. Waterman (an account 
of which is given in another chapter entitled "The Village 

Caleb V. Waterman, being a man of good business 
capacity and judgment, saw the necessity of having better 
accommodations at a time when the service of an under- 
taker was required . He purchased a hearse and proceeded 
to make up a sufficient number of coffins of various sizes 
at a season when sufficient time could be used to give to 
them a more finished appearance than was possible to do 
in the limited time previously given. 

In those days the burial cases were made in the con- 
ventional style, totally unlike the burial caskets of to-day. 
Black walnut was the wood almost universally used, 
although cypress, neatly stained in imitation of black 
walnut or cherry, was sometimes used for cheaper grades; 
however well they may have answered their purpose, they 
would form a strong contrast with the beautiful and artistic 
burial caskets in use to-day. 

In 1 86 1 Mr. Waterman gave up the wheelwright busi- 
ness and devoted his entire attention to undertaking, 
which he continued until his death, March 29, 1865. 

After the death of Caleb V. Waterman, the business was 
continued, under his name, for about one year, by his 
son-in-law, William W. Wright, when he disposed of it 
to Israel B. Phillips. ]\Ir. Phillips, too, was a carriage 
maker by trade,, but gave up the business to take up his 
new calling. He was especially qualified to conduct the 
business of undertaker. His quiet and sombre manner 
and the sympathetic expression of his face well qualihed 
him for the melancholy duties of undertaker. In 187 1 he 


sold out to Arnold Staples and removed to Woonsocket, 
R. I., to engage in the same business. Arnold Staples 
continued the business on Waterman avenue until 1880, 
when he removed to Esmond, R. I. 

xAfter Arnold Staples removed to Enfield, Centerdale 
was without a resident undertaker until 1892, when Her- 
bert A. Fenner, a graduate of the United States College 
of Embalming, of Boston, Mass., re-established the busi- 
ness at No. 2007 Smith street, where he remained until 
June, 1907, when he removed into a new building he had 
erected upon Steere street. 


The Town Hall, or the Establishment of the Seat 
OF Town Government in Centerdale. 

THE town of North Providence, within whose hmits is 
located the village of Centerdale, was at one time, or 
until 1765, a part of the territory of the town of Provi- 
dence, which oftginally embraced nearly all of Providence 
county; but as the country became more thickly settled, 
desire for separate townships were manifest on all sides; 
the farming districts believing they could more economi- 
cally manage their local affairs if they were separated from 
the business section of the town of Providence. 

In 1 73 1 the towns of Glocester, Smithfield, and Scituate 
were set off and incorporated as separate towns. In 
1754 Cranston was incorporated, and in 1759 the town of 
Johnston was established. It was not long before further 
discontent was manifest. Town meetings were frecjuently 
called to appropriate money or transact business bene- 
fiting only the business section of the town, much to the 
inconvenience of the farmers. This and other reasons 
soon engendered considerable political animosity, which 
resulted in another petition being presented to the General 
Assembly, at the February session, 1765, praying that a 
portion of the town of Providence be set off and incor- 
porated as a separate town to be known as Wenscutt (or 
Wanskuck). Definite action was not taken upon the 
petition at that session but was deferred until the next 


session when, June 13, 1765, the petition was granted 
with the exception of the proposed name, which was 
changed to North Providence. The town at that time 
not only included its present area, but included a large 
part of the territory of the city of Pawtucket, also the 
tenth ward of the city of Providence. 

In due course of time the seat of the town government 
was established at Pawtucket, and there most of the town 
meetings were held. From natural causes the eastern 
part of the town developed more rapidly than the western 
section or the farming district. This again, after many 
years, caused the same trouble and dissatisfaction as in 
former years. The thickly populated sections of the 
town were frequently calling for large appropriations for 
various purposes that had little interest to the farmers, 
and in no way directly benefited them, naturally causing 
the rural taxpayers to believe they were being unneces- 
sarily taxed to maintain the alleged extravagances of the 
richer and more populous sections. These reasons and 
many political grievances resulted in the presentation 
of a petition to the General Assembly, in 1874, asking for 
a division of the town; and without much delay the 
petition was granted, March 27, 1874, the act to go into 
effect May first of the same year, annexing a portion (or 
in other words the village of Pawtucket) to the town of 
Pawtucket, then located on the east side of the river (this 
section was afterwards incorporated as the city of Paw- 
tucket in 1885) and returning to the city of Providence the 
territory now designated as the tenth ward. How wise or 
advantageous this act has proven, with the experience of 
later years, to the rural towns, is a question of diverse 



After the town was divided, in 1874, no ])ermancnt 
headquarters for the town government was established 
until 1880. The town meetings were generally held in 
Armory Hall, Centerdale. The town clerk's office was at 
the residence of George Eddy, on Olney avenue, Fruit 
Hill. Mr. Eddy was elected the first town clerk of the 
new town in 1874, and held the office until June 7, 1880, 
when Thomas Holden Angell was elected his successor, 
and held the office continuously for over twenty-six years, 
or until November, 1906, when from failing health he 
declined a further re-election and was succeeded as town 
clerk by Louis A. Sweet. 

Town Hall. 

At a town meeting held June 2d, 1879, after an exciting 
political, or, rather, it might be called, sectional contest, 
it was decided to build a town hall in the village of Cen- 


terdale, thus making Centerdale the seat of town govern- 
ment for the town. This was considered a grand triumph 
by the people of Centerdale, for the contest was strongly 
fought, by the different sections of the town, to have the 
town hall located in their vicinity. 

An appropriation of $2,000 was made to build a town 
hall and town clerk's office, and John R. Cozzens, JMartin 
W. Thurber, and Charles E. Hall were appointed as a 
committee to proceed with the work of purchasing a 
suitable site and the erection of a building to accommodate 
the needs of the town. A lot on Mineral Spring avenue 
was secured, upon which they at once proceeded to erect 
a building, 28 x 36 feet, two stories in height, from plans 
drawn by L. M. E. Stone. The contract for building the 
same was let to Benjamin Sweet, a local carpenter and 
contractor. In the basement is located the police station, 
with four cells for the detention of prisoners. The town 
clerk's office and council chamber are located on the first 
floor, as also the town sergeant's offices. On the second 
floor is the hall for holding the town meetings, etc. The 
exterior of the building is very plain in appearance, as 
well as the interior, although very conveniently arranged 
for the transaction of the town's business. 


Biographical Sketches. 

IT is proper and appropriate at this time to give some 
recognition of a few of the residents of the httle New- 
England village who have not already been mentioned in 
connection with some of the business interests of the town, 
but who have been life-long residents of Centerdale and 
prominent in all philanthropic enterprises tending to the 
moral and social interest of the community. 

It may not be easy for the present generation to com- 
prehend the social condition of a little New England 
village as it existed in the early days of Centerdale, before 
the population became as cosmopolitan as it is at the 
present time. At that time the resident people were com- 
posed of native-born, or American, people in the general 
acceptance of the word. In those days the people making 
up a little town were bound together by some family tie, 
more or less distant, when each and every one had a 
friendly interest in the welfare of his neighbor, rejoicing 
in his success and sympathizing with him in his adver- 
sities; and it is to like people born and reared under those 
conditions that we to-day are indebted for the many 
blessings we receive and enjoy from the glorious govern- 
ment under which we live, conceived by those who knew 
and had home interest at heart, making them far better 
qualified to establish the principles of self-government 
than a people of a more cosmopolite character, with a 
disregard of national or local conditions and peculiarities. 


•"^IPHIpy! "ijniHipi 

James Halsey Angell. 

James Halsey Angell. 

James Halsey Angell was the son of James Angell and 
Belinda (Ray) Angell, and was born May loth, 1822, and 
was a resident of Centerdale all of his life, or nearly 
seventy years. In 1842 he married Sarah Angell Capron, 
daughter of Edwin and Deborah (Angell) Capron, born 
June 23, 1824. Two sons were born to them, George F. 
and Frank C. Angell. Mr. Angell received a good com- 
mon school education, and early in life entered the employ 
of Zachariah Allen as accountant in the Allendale mill 
and clerk in the village store. He subseciuently bought 
out the store and continued in business until 1846, when 
he sold out, and November, 1847, succeeded his brother 


Nathaniel as landlord of the Centerdale Hotel. At that 
time the place was conducted as an old-time tavern stand, 
and it was during his administration that the balls or 
dances spoken of in Chapter XI were so popular around 
about the country towns. He conducted the hotel suc- 
cessfully until April i, 1858; moved to a farm belonging 
to his father, which afterwards became his own. This farm 
is now included in the village of Centerdale. 

In 1854 he was appointed postmaster at Centerdale, an 
office which he held for many years. He took active part 
in town affairs, and held many offices of trust and respon- 
sibility. He was often called upon to serve as adminis- 
trator in the settlement of estates, and his sound and 
unbiased judgment was often sought by his neighbors 
upon many questions which arise around a country town. 

For thirty-three years, or until a few months before his 
death, he kept a daily diary of the everyday occurrences 
about the farm and village, without missing a day. This 
diary furnishes interesting reading, and was often consulted 
by his neighbors to settle some question in doubt or dis- 
pute; his diary always being accepted as authority in 
deciding such questions. It also lent valuable aid to the 
writer in preparing the "Annals of Centerdale." 

He was made a Mason in Temple Lodge, No. 18, of 
Greenville, September 5, 1868, and in 1876 became a 
charter member of Roger Williams Lodge, No. 32, 
A. F. & A. M., of Centerdale, and took active part in 
organizing the same. He was elected treasurer at its 
first meeting, and held the office for fourteen years, or until 
his death in 1890. 

He was public spirited and interested in all work that 
pertained to the moral and general welfare of the com- 


munity. He took active part in estaljlishing Union Free 
Library, and served as treasurer for fifteen years, or until 
his death. 

In 1889 he was stricken with paralysis, from which lie 
never fuhy recovered, and died, July ist, 1890, in the 
sixty-ninth year of his age. As a mark of respect, all 
places of Ijusiness in the village were closed during the 
time of the funeral. He was buried wnth Masonic honors, 
in the North Burying Ground in Providence. 

Benjamin Sweet. 

Benjamin Sw^et was the son of Emor Sweet and Waity 
(Manton) Sweet, and was born in the town of Johnston, 
R. I., July 25, 1833. In 1857 he married Olive W. 
Gardiner, daughter of Nelson and Jane F. (Taylor) 
Gardiner, and five sons and seven daughters were born 
to them. When a boy he attended the schools of his 
native town until he was sixteen years old, when he entered 
the employ of his father as an apprentice to learn the 
carpenter's trade; and having a natural aptitude for that 
branch of industry, he made rapid progress, and in 1855 
started in business for himself as contractor and builder, 
and met with considerable success, completing many large 
contracts, including the Stillwater woolen mill and other 
large mills and public buildings. He retired from active 
business in 1898. 

In May, 1863, during the Civil War, he joined Company 
A, Fifth Regiment, Rhode Island Militia and w^as ap- 
pointed first lieutenant, but the regiment was not called 
upon to do active duty in the field. He took up his resi- 
dence in Centerdale in April, 1864, where he has since 


resided. His party affiliations were always with the 
Republican party, and he was honored many times with 
public office. He represented the town of North Provi- 
dence in the General xA.sscmbly in the years 1874 and 
1875, and was a member of the town council for twenty- 
two years, serving in that office longer than any other 
man in the town. He was also elected upon the school 
committee and board of tax assessors for several years, 
and for many years has served upon the board of directors 
of the Union Free Library of Centerdale. He was always 
interested in public improvements and the good and 
general welfare of the home of his adoption, the village of 
Centerdale, where he still resides. 

Lydia Wilcox. 

And with the morn those angel faces smile 
\\'hich I have loved long since and lost awhile. 

- -Sfxected. 

THE history of Centerdale would be incomplete with 
out the story of that remarkable and mysterious 
person, Miss Lydia Wilcox. Who she was, whence she 
came, or how she came to be here, will probably never 
be known, for by her tragic end the key to her life's 
history was forever lost. 

Here Lydia Wilcox lived for nearly fifty years prac- 
tically alone in the little country village, daily moving 
among the people, without revealing to any person the 
secret of her going forth from the home of her girlhood or 
the equally baffling secret of why she held no communica- 
tion with her family or former friends. 

In the summer or fall of 1828, Mr. James Anthony, then 
proprietor of the cotton mill in Centerdale, had occasion 
to make a business trip to Boston ; and as was the custom 
in those days, he drove there with his horse and carriage. 
This was several years before the advent of the steam rail- 
road in this country, and to journey to Boston you would 
be obliged to either walk, go by stage-coach, or by horse 
and carriage. Upon his return trip he overtook upon the 
road a comely young woman of erect carriage, good 
features, and dark complexion. In accordance with the 
custom of the time, Mr. Anthony offered the young woman 


a seat in his carriage, or, to use the old-time country 
phrase, gave her a "lift" as far as Centerdale. 

Lydia Wilcox's after life gives reason for the supposition 
that the conversation between the mill owner and his fair 
passenger had the result of conveying to Mr. Anthony 
the information that the young woman was a mill worker, 
and of securing for her a position in the Centerdale cotton 
mill. Here she worked for many years, at first boarding 
with an elderly maiden woman by the name of Rebecca 
wSmith; but afterwards she hired from the same person 
three small rooms in the basement of a small building 
now standing and numbered 1999 Smith street, and is the 
building now used as a fire station by the Centerdale 
\'olunteer Fire Company. June 17, 1843, she purchased 
the house from her savings, and ever afterwards made her 
lonely home there until her death, November i, 1877. 

The moral character of Miss Lyddy (as she was always 
called by the village people, man, woman, and child) 
always escaped even a hint of lapse of strict rectitude 
during her half-century of life in a country village, which 
certainly is high praise indeed. Quite good looking 
enough to attract sweethearts, and industrious to a degree, 
such was the personality of Lydia Wilcox that the young 
men stood aloof from her; and it is agreed by those who 
knew her that the courage that would enable a man to 
take undue liberties with "Miss Lyddy" would qualify 
him for more popular deed of daring. 

No better proof can be given of Lydia Wilcox's un- 
approachableness than the fact that in a rural community, 
where the one real aim of existence is usually to know as 
much of everybody's affairs as may be included within the 
realm of possibility, no person ever succeeded in breaking 


down the barrier of her reserve so far as to gain her 
confidence; for this remarkable woman always main- 
tained a state of hostile silence when someone more 
curious or more foolish than his fellows attempted to 
invade the secrecy that the Centerdale oddity preserved 
inviolate for so many more years than cynics allow 
womankind for the keeping of a secret. As she grew 
older, Lydia Wilcox's personality became more and more 
marked. She took up smoking, and it was no uncommon 
sight to see her with a common clay pipe of the "T. D." 
variety, which she always used, puffing away as though 
she thoroughly enjoyed it. 

Miss Lyddy's peculiarities of dress were ec|ually well 
marked, and her calico gowns lasted for a length of time 
calculated to plunge dressmakers into despair if the custom 
became common. A hood in the winter and a sun-bonnet 
in the summer made up this eccentric woman's headgear, 
and she was seldom seen with uncovered head; carrying 
this whim so far as sometimes to work all day at house- 
work, for which she had been hired, with her bonnet or 
hood upon her head. A shawl tied tightly about the 
body made up the essentials of "Miss Lyddy's" costume, 
upon which neither time nor the mutabilities of fashion 
had the slightest effect, beyond causing a renewal, from 
time to time, of the materials. When she could, ''Miss 
Lyddy" kept a cow, some pigs and hens, from which she 
derived some income and a great amount of enjoyment; 
one of her prominent characteristics being a strong love for 
dumb animals of all sorts, in which she took an unfailing 
interest, whether the beasts were her own or her friends; 
and she would go into ecstacies of praise over a new-born 
calf or puppy that belonged to anybody she liked, exclaim- 


ing, over and over again, "There's for ye, now! Just look 
at this mark ! Just look at that mark ! The likeliest one I 
ever saw! There's for ye now, there's for ye!" Although 
her unchecked aversion to those whom she did not like 
would hardly admit of her praising the live stock of her 
enemy, however good it might be. At such time she 
would give vent to her feeling by exclaiming, accompanied 
with a stamp of her foot, "bhist him, he never owned a 
good horse or cow in his life, blast himV 

"Miss Lyddy" was a good hater, and once her dislike 
was aroused, nothing served to allay it; and this vindictive 
spirit, together with her personal appearance, which ex- 
posure to weather and time affected in the darkening of 
her complexion to swarthiness, led many to conjecture 
that she was either a Gypsy or a Canadian; the latter 
being represented at that time by strolling families of 
people with a considerable admixture of Indian blood; 
while others believed her ancestors were of English 
descent, which, without doubt, was nearest correct. 

Lydia Wilcox's end was in keeping with her life, and 
only a probable cause was ever assumed as causing the 
tragedy which closed her earthly career. 

About seven o'clock on the evening of November ist, 
1877, her home was discovered to be on fire. An alarm was 
given, and soon the village people gathered and forced 
open the outside door. Upon entering her room it was seen 
that the straw bed upon which her unconscious form was 
lying was on fire. This was quickly removed to the open 
air, and the flames which enveloped both the bed and the 
occupant were quickly extinguished. The aged woman, 
whose life-time custom had been to greet her visitors at 
her threshold, beyond which none for many years had 


ever passed, was not quite dead when l^rought out, but 
the signs of Hfe were confined to low moans which she 
gave forth at intervals. She died a few minutes later, 
without showing other indications of consciousness of her 
terrible fate. An involuntary movement in sleep over- 
turning a lighted candle upon the straw bed was supposed 
to have caused the fire. The body was removed to 
Armory Hall, where the charred remains were prepared 
for burial, which occurred November 3d, 1877, Rev. INIr. 
Donovan, ofliciating, choosing for his text, "I am a stranger 
and a sojourner with you, give me a possession of a burying 
place with you." (Gen. xxiii, 4th v.) 

As no heirs to her estate were known to the town au- 
thorities, her small estate was taken in charge by the town 
treasurer of North Providence, who is required by statute 
law to hold the same in trust for a term of thirty years, 
when, if no legal heirs appear and establish a claim to the 
estate, the town treasurer has authority to sell the same 
for the benefit of the town. The time limit expired 
November i, 1907, but the town, however, still holds 
possession of the estate, it being now used as the fire 
station of the Centerdale Volunteer Fire Company. 

All is finished, and at length 

Has come the bridal day 

Of beauty and of strength. 

To-day the vessel shall be launched! 

With fleecy clouds the sky is blanched, 

And o'er the bay, 

Slowly, in all his splendors dight, 

The great sun rises to behold the sight." 

— Longfellow. 



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